Historic Falcon Football Season Ends - TribPapers

Historic Falcon Football Season Ends

Senior Andrew Schultz fights for extra yards after a catch on Friday. He is among two-way Falcon stars. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Mills River – West Henderson Falcons lost 35-17 in round three to end an historic football season.

The Falcons (12-1) matched the 1984 squad for three marks in program history — most wins, longest unbeaten streak, and deepest drive into the state playoffs. They were at home again on a frigid Friday, as the 3A West Region’s second seed.

Lukas Kachilo scrambles, as fellow senior Lawson Sullivan (8) runs his route. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Lukas Kachilo scrambles, as fellow senior Lawson Sullivan (8) runs his route. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

“We made history!,” senior quarterback Lukas Kachilo told the Tribune after the game. “We provided some excitement for the entire community.”

Head coach Paul Whitaker told the team in the post-game huddle to “hold your heads up. I am real proud of you.” He told seniors how they went out as champions of the Mountain Seven Conference and Henderson County’s four schools, and as the region’s second seed. “You set the bar high” for next season, he said.

Whitaker urged the seniors to “take it to the next level” in playing college ball. Meanwhile, many Falcons will play basketball.

Eastern Guilford had a larger line and several swift backs, Coach Whitaker noted. The Wildcats (9-4) were healthier and much better later in 2022. In round two they scored at will to win 62-42 at Erwin as Jaiden Evans ran for 347 yards and several long touchdowns. He entered the game rushing for 1,424 yards and 22 TDs.

Evans ran for the Wildcats’ two first TDs Friday. He went 14 yards for their first score. “Once he got free, he ‘took it to the house,’” Coach Whitaker said. EGHS tied West 7-7. Down 10-7, Evans ran four yards with 8:31 left in the second quarter. That was the first of the visitors’ three consecutive scores.

Evans did not score again. He got injured late in the first half, and did not return. The Wildcats did not need him.

WNC’s Premier Passing Combo

West Henderson clicked on offense for much of the game. This was the encore performance of WNC public schools’ leading passing combo — QB Kachilo and his main receiver, junior Truitt Manuel. Kachilo connected with Manuel for two touchdowns — the game’s first and last ones on Friday.

Manuel tumbled in the end zone as he pulled in a 24-yard pass for the opening score, four minutes into the contest. He caught a 15-yard pass for the final TD, with 8:20 remaining.

Kachilo finished his final Falcon season by throwing for a WNC-best 3,385 yards and 43 TDs. He hurled ten of those scores in West’s three playoff contests. He tossed merely nine interceptions in 13 games.

He threw four TDs in each of the first two rounds with seven of those eight aerial scores going to Manuel. On Friday, Kachilo completed 20 of 32 passes — more than two-thirds of them. He rushed for a team-leading nine TDs in 2022.

Manuel set a WNC single-season record with 27 receiving TDs. He broke the prior mark by four scores. He led WNC receivers with 93 catches for 1,334 yards. He caught six passes on Friday. He is among West’s 17 football seniors.

Cameron Banks made five receptions, Diego Castro had four, and Andrew Schultz had three. Lawson Sullivan and Tayman Howell each caught one pass.

Fate Turns

The first of multiple controversial calls was on Sullivan’s nine-yard reception. Officials ruled that he lost the ball before he broke the end zone’s plane for a West touchdown. Many on the Falcons’ side insist that Sullivan scored just before defenders yanked the ball away. The ball bounced out of bounds for a touchback. The Wildcats took possession.

West regained the lead at 10-7 on senior Irbin Villafuerte’s 31-yard field goal with 3:30 remaining in the first quarter.

But Eastern Guilford shut out the Falcons in the second and third quarters, outscoring them 28-0. After Sullivan’s TD was nullified, the Wildcats took their first lead at 14-10 on Evans’ second TD run. They tacked on a safety as they pulled down Kachilo in the end zone. They sacked him six times.

Marcus Bynam grabbed the loose ball that a fellow Wildcat offensive player fumbled and ran ahead. A standard rule is that the offense cannot advance its own fumble. But rather than rule it the Wildcats’ ball at the West 14, officials allowed Bynam to score. EGHS led 22-10 at halftime.

Perhaps the most demoralizing play of all was in the third quarter. The Wildcats knocked the ball out of Kachilo’s hand on a keeper. Wildcat Solomon Howell scooped up the ball at the West one and quickly scored.

Eastern Guilford scored its last points on Tyreik Boyd’s TD toss, in the final minute of the third quarter. The PAT missed. But the Wildcats led by 25 at 35-10.

The sole score in the final quarter was on one last aerial hurrah of Kachilo to Manuel. Still, As Coach Whitaker noted, his Falcons kept “competing” to the end.

Many Falcon starters were sick with the flu on game day, several players said. When asked about it, Manuel said that “I had a fever, and was throwing up” at halftime. “I could barely breathe out of my nose.” Yet he played throughout the game and excelled.

The future is bright. Carson Dimsdale, a junior, ran for 64 yards Friday to total 1,083 yards. Sophomore Tayman Howell had a big run. He finished with 650 yards. They scored a combined 13 rushing touchdowns. Manuel, Dimsdale, Howell, Castro, linemen Charlie Decker and Robert Waters and DE Finley Sullivan are among Falcon stars for the 2023 season.