Hendersonville – Four local football teams won openers, with West Henderson scoring 31 points in a row in a comeback win, Hendersonville winning a close one, and two Buncombe squads cruising to victory.
West Henderson Falcons (11-0) beat North Davidson 45-28 in their 3A playoff opener. Hendersonville Bearcats (9-2) beat West Lincoln 36-29 in 2A.
A.C. Reynolds Rockets (10-1) decapitated A.L. Brown Wonders 55-14 in 4A, on such long scoring plays as Max Guest’s 50-yard run and M.A. Skanes’ kickoff return. Erwin Warriors (6-5) beat Carson 41-27 in 3A, after leading 28-7 at halftime.
Asheville Cougars (8-3) lost 28-26 as visiting Mount Tabor kicked a 39-yard field goal with three seconds left. T.C. Roberson Rams (6-5) fell 21-14 at unbeaten Olympic, also in 4A. Ram quarterback Lex Dinwiddie ran for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Round two on Friday, Nov. 11 (Veterans Day) features a West-West 3A matchup. West Rowan (9-2), the 15th seed, comes to Mills River after clobbering Franklin 35-7. Two seventh-seeded Buncombe teams are also at home again. Reynolds welcomes tenth seed Julius Chambers (9-2) in 4A. Erwin hosts a spread-passing team like itself in Eastern Guilford (7-4).
Cats Contain Running Rebels
Hendersonville travels to unbeaten second seed East Surry (11-0), which is prolific in passing. But the Bearcat secondary is a strength. HHS head coach Kirron Ward eyes eventual payback and “deferred gratification,” as one might say. He was a Bearcat lineman in 2001 when East Surry ended his senior season.
HHS so far in 2022 lost only to a pair of undefeated teams in league rival Chase and also West Henderson. At times last Friday it seemed another West team (Lincoln) might foil the Cats. West Lincoln matched HHS’ 8-2 mark, and as the 18th seed ranked merely three spots below the Bearcats.
West Lincoln’s Mason Avery ran for 255 yards and three TDs Friday, to total 37 scores and 2,622 yards in 2022. The Rebels ran relentlessly, sustained long drives and kept the ball from HHS. Longtime Bearcat rivals Mountain Heritage and Polk County (with Angus Weaver) also do that. Heritage won at HHS two seasons ago in the regional finals. It seemed an eerie deja vu last Friday.
“We’re used to playing against a running offense, and we beat those teams, too” in 2022, Coach Ward said. He liked how the defense dug in to deny points on some long Rebel drives, such as with two timely sacks in a row. As Ward says, “We like to hit.”
Hendersonville had touchdowns up its sleeves, to never trail. “We fight!,” Coach Ward said of Bearcat tenacity. The Bearcats made several superb plays on special teams and offense. Tayshawn Collins returned a kickoff for a crucial late touchdown to help clinch victory. He said that he was concerned coverage players would reach him right after he fielded the ball. He said that once he saw open “green field,” that he knew he would out-run the Rebels and score.
Three-way senior superstar Eric Rasheed ran five yards on a jet sweep wide for a TD. He sparked that drive with a 60-yard kickoff return. The ace receiver caught a pass with a defender wrapped around him, somehow bounced off of him, and ran for a long gain. He ran for a first down on a fake punt to keep a scoring drive going.
He shined on special teams. He ran 21 yards for a long two-point conversion, on a fake extra point. Kicker Cooper King did a phantom kick to see the fake. HHS led 15-7 then, and at halftime. Rasheed later broke through blockers on a Phoenix PAT try, to pressure the kicker into hurrying and missing his kick.
On defense, the 5-foot-9 cornerback came up to make hard tackles. His interception clinched victory. Rasheed returned a fumble for a long TD. But officials errantly ruled the runner down before he coughed up the ball. Rasheed told the Tribune that the runner was still airborne when the ball came out. Rasheed vowed that he grabbed it mid-air. He took off running.
His father Eric Rasheed Sr. said after the game he sees his own open field moves in his son. He noted that Eric Jr. is already running a 4.4 40-yard dash — a feat Eric Sr. did not do until his pro tryout.
Hezzie Rudisill opened scoring with a two-yard run.
Quarterback Lennard Benniefield said winning the shootout felt “great!” The swift senior scored on a four-yard keeper. He left for several minutes in the fourth quarter after both legs cramped. Sophomore Ivey Harper filled in. But Benniefield returned to engineer one last time-consuming drive.
West Region second seed West Henderson beat North Davidson 45-28 by shutting out the visitors in the second half. West trailed 21-7, 28-14 and never led in the first half. Head coach Paul Whitaker said, “We trailed before — against Polk and Franklin. But if we make a good stop, we’re right back in it.” West did that.
First, West defenders filled the “box” better to thwart Black Knight running. “We fed our ‘run gaps’ much better” with tacklers, Whitaker said. “We tackled better. Once we got up two scores, we can predict they had to throw it. We didn’t have to put more into the box.”
The Falcon offense sizzled. Lukas Kachilo threw two of his four TD passes to Truitt Manuel. Kachilo’s first two TD passes went to Cameron Banks for nine yards and Lawson Sullivan for 33 yards. Kachilo completed 88 percent of (22 of 25) passes.
Half (11 of 22) went to tight end Banks for 143 yards. This varied from West’s usual reliance on Manuel, who caught five passes for 75 yards. He was often double-teamed by a safety. Whitaker said that “opened the ‘curl’ (pattern) for the tight end or slot receiver.”
West’s comeback started in the second quarter. Kachilo connected with Manuel for a 14-yard TD. Manuel said “the catch felt great. But the team’s motivation and drive to finish out the half felt even better.” The Falcons trailed 28-21 at halftime.
Whitaker said at halftime he did not yell. Instead he simply said to “do what we’ve done for ten (winning) games.” Manuel said Whitaker’s message resonated that “We have been in this situation before. Don’t panic. Play y’all’s game.”
Falcons responded. It was all West in the second half. Kachilo rolled left and arced a 33-yard pass to Manuel in the left side of the end zone. The exact play worked a week earlier in the huge win over Tuscola. Irvin Villafuerte’s PAT tied the score at 28.
Aiden Osman leaped and snatched a Black Knight pass to intercept it near the line of scrimmage, inside enemy territory. Kachilo ran 15 yards on keeper for the final score. He zig-zagged, spun off of a tackler and bowled over a Knight to reach the end zone. Kachilo rushed for 44 yards.
Erwin senior Iggy Welch threw for four TDs — two each to Ty Johnson and Demetrase “Meechie” Graves. Johnson had 78 of his 150 receiving yards on a catch-and-run score. Welch is finally healing after an injury to his throwing shoulder, Erwin head coach Rodney Pruett noted.
“We’ve gotten so much better overall, down the stretch,” Pruett said. He said a major reason is “our ability to run is much better. We’re getting balanced on offense. Defenses no longer drop eight back against the pass.”
Phillip Shostak moved from receiver to back. He ran for 108 yards (4.7 ypc.) and a TD Friday. Welch ran for a TD. “Hats off to our O-line,” Coach Pruett said. “ur defense bent but didn’t break. We stopped them on a key fourth down. All pieces of the puzzle are working.”