‘N.B.’ Stands For ‘Nasty Beasts’ - TribPapers

‘N.B.’ Stands For ‘Nasty Beasts’

Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Weaverville – North Buncombe has already won more varsity football games in 2023 than in the two prior seasons combined.

The Black Hawks outscored visiting East Henderson 47-36 last Friday, to win their opening game and break a two-year losing streak. “Our kids fought through some early adversity, grabbed the momentum, and played quality football the rest of the way,” second-year NBHS head coach David Hines said. He told his Hawks right after the win, “Remember this feeling on the practice field this week when things aren’t comfortable. If you like feeling this way (victorious), there are no short cuts. There is only being coachable, and working hard every day.”

Coach David Hines. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Coach David Hines. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

On this veteran squad, 19 of 31 varsity Hawks are seniors. Hines observes that “everyone is more comfortable in our system. We have intelligent kids, who ask questions. We have so much consistency and smoothness in what we do.”

Hines installed a “smash mouth” rushing game. His team motto is “TNT” – as in “Tough, Nasty, Together.” William E. Reeves Stadium’s home field has a large “N.B.” on it. Hawk Nation hopes that the team makes the school initials also stand for “Nasty Beasts,” who deliver “Neutering Blocks.”

Hines teaches players his detailed blocking for Wing T rushing. He spices “tough love” with entertaining wit and fatherly assurances. He gave the Black Hawks an emotional pep talk after they dropped their opener in 2022. “I’m demanding,” he said. “But I want them to know I care.” Quarterback Alex Rash said Hines “gets us amped up” even in practice.

Hawks Take to Air More

Coach Hines said the run-first Hawks are apt to pass more than in 2022, going for big gains. “We’ve added to our passing package. Balance is the same number of passing yards versus rushing yards, not the same number of plays.”

Fiery, husky senior Alex Rash (6-1, 200) said he is “excited we’ll throw more.” It helps that he gets the bulk of QB practice reps. He split QB duties in 2022 with then-senior Gabe Banks. Rash, also a linebacker, started the final five games at quarterback.

“Alex stepped up,” Hines said. His accuracy improved by year’s end. “He refined mechanics and footwork. He understood the defense, and positions his teammates are in. He progressed as a passer, and as a game manager and leader.” That progress continued in the week one victory.

QB Rash is justifiably “confident in his abilities,” has “mental toughness,” and is trimmer, more muscular, and stronger,” Coach Hines said. Standout baseball pitcher Rash has a “big arm, with natural arm strength that’s free flowing.”

Rash runs well. He said that he enjoys getting to “scramble,” and throw downfield. In the victory over East,Rash scored on a three-yeard keeper. Earlier, he rolled right after a fake handoff. He quickly hit tight end Greyson Johnson (6-2, 228 sr.) up the middle for a 16-yard score.

Wide receivers are Colby Aikens (5-10, 170 sr.), and basketball players Draven Farris (6-1, 160 sr.) and Cole Edmonds (5-11, 160 jr.). The flanker/wingback is Xavier Banks-Tenant (5-10, 170 sr.); also Gabe Freeman (5-10, 165 so.), and Ryan Moffatt (5-11, 170 so.) who also kicks.

Grinding Ballhawks

Hawk success hinges on methodically controlling the ball with halfback Hayden Burnette (5-7, 155 sr.), fullback Jackson Eubanks (6-3, 205 sr.), and halfbacks Grant Byers (5-8, 165 sr.) and Dane Houston (5-10, 160 jr.). Burnette scored three TDs – for 13, 43 then 21 yards. He rushed for 151 yards (8.9 YPC). Eubanks and Byers each ran for 70 yards and a TD. Eubanks caught five passes (12.6 YPC).

Hines’ Wing T timing and blocking includes converging “wedge” blocking to rush up the gut or on either side in short-yardage situations. “Other teams expected it, but often can’t stop it” as in the opener, Hines said.

“We’re pretty strong up front,” Hines said. Blockers are tackles Ben Dupree (6-1, 245 sr.) and mammoth Andrew Rhinehart (6-4, 290 jr.), center Thomas Kirkpatrick (5-10, 250 jr.), and guards Kenyan Peek (5-9, 195 sr.) and Philip Svetlov (5-10, 245 sr.).

“Our line is confident, grew together,” and is much stronger than in ‘22, Hines said. He teaches weightlifting. He sees in his O-line a “coachable, nasty attitude. In pass and run blocking, they are the protectors of the offense. It all starts up front.”

Defensive formations include a 3-3 “stack” versus spread teams, and an eight-man front to “move up into gaps or blitz at times.” Starters include Landon Gentile (6-1, 170 sr.) and Eli Morgan (6-0, 170 jr.) up front, and Ephraim Helmling (5-11, 180 sr.) at linebacker.

The opening victory strengthens team confidence, and determination to be much more competitive in the “physically tough” Mountain Athletic Conference, Hines said. NBHS barely lost 13-10 to Enka in ’22. A 14-0 loss to Madison stings. The local archrivals play at NBHS on Sept. 1.

Coach Hines likes the Hawks’ greater “sense of confidence in each other, and in our program. We have the ability to win some ballgames this year, and represent this school and community well.”