HendersonvilleNews StoriesPete Zamplas

‘Blast from the Past’: East-HHS rivalry intensifies in fun alumni contest

By Pete Zamplas –

East Henderson and Hendersonville football alumni tackled each other and Father Time in their first-ever alumni contest, with recent stars such as HHS receiver Daniel Orr and East runner Michael Angram flashing brilliance and elder alums toughing out a battle of rivals in the cold before cheering fans.

Hendersonville won 26-6, at East Saturday. That took some sting out of Bearcat pride, for current Cats getting ousted from playoffs the night before by reigning 1-AA champ Swain.

Many may wish Orr, the most valuable player Saturday, was still a Bearcat on Fridays. The 2010 graduate scored HHS’ first three touchdowns versus East — on a 20-yard reverse, 35-yard interception return (also in the opening quarter) then 20-yard reception. Orr said after three years, “it was fun, to show I can still play as fast as I did for the Bearcats.”

Cedrick Allen, among greatest Bearcat backs, ran for a two-point conversion and 20-6 lead. The ’09 grad is 5-foot-8. He weighed 205 as a HHS speedster but is listed at 249 now and is more of a power back. Charles “Mo Mo” Featherstone (’04), a running back at HHS, shared quarterback duties with A.J. Black Saturday. Mo Mo dashed in for the last HHS score. For East, Angram scored to cut the lead to 12-6 by halftime.

Also, North Henderson alumni held off host West alums 26-21, on Nov. 10. Both games were set up by Alumni Football USA. It reports putting on 1,000 alumni games in 21 states over 28 years, raising $400,000 for schools. An Alumni Football organizer said East raised about $2,400 in advance; its website noted West raised $1,860 and North $1,485.

Alumni Football gets the other half of pre-sale receipts, and all on gameday when most HHS fans got the $10 tickets. Turnout for both local games were strong. Host schools keep concession money. Next year venues reverse, as HHS welcomes East and West plays at North. As early as 2014, prior winners tangle as intra-county matchups change.

Players each paid Alumni Football $100. East had 39 on its roster, HHS 31. Many said they plan to play again next year.

Game tackling was fierce, trash talking intense at times. After the game, Star defender “Quonnie” Young (HHS ’11) grinned as he chided that “we kicked your (butts)!”

Players on both squads told The Tribune how fun it was to put on the pads again in front of a crowd, and go toe to toe with familiar rival players and stars of other eras. Several said their first hit triggered memories, of competition and camaraderie. East quarterback Jared Quinn, an ’07 graduate, calls the Eagles a “Band of Brothers.”

Many huffed. Some ached. But as Justin Hill (East ’06) said, after smashing for key yards and toughing out a sore back, “it’s worth it. The cousin of former QB Chase Hill, said of football, “I miss it.”

“It’s a blast from the past,” said Jameson Hill, a 2009 East alum. “It’s been a long time since I’ve worn green.” The elder brother of 2012 star receiver Steffon Hill has started as a cornerback for semi-pro Asheville Grizzlies.

Team defensive MVP and MLB Nicky Henderson, among many, called the experience “awesome.” East lineman Josh English (2000), a banker, said it was “exciting.” Even when HHS sent “three guys at me, on an isolation play.”

Engineer Aaron Sparks, a ’98 HHS alumnus, was impressed with how his squad brought players of various eras “together into a team” that clicked. He was a team captain, as were quick receiver Ronnie Pollard (‘00), fullback Matt “Bull” Menchaca (’02) and big linebacker Kirron Ward (’02).

Game organizers-players for East include big highway patrolman Kyle Smith and Eric McCall, both 2000 grads. Smith, East’s overall MVP, played for Appalachian State. Practice began in August. Both teams prepared several times a week.

Heaviest Cats were 360-pounder Reggie “Big Baby” Ramirez (2002) and 350-pounder Brice “Bacon” Terry. HHS’ game offensive MVP was Jermell Smith (2000), who is 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds. He was among five Bearcats listed at 6-foot-4 or taller, and seven 275 or heavier.

Many players were 30ish. Eldest Bearcat was John Mealey, 37. East elders were Chad Maybin (1990) at 40; and Henderson, Derek Bishop and Charlie Miller at 39. Only Maybin wore an old silver Eagle helmet, before green then black ones.

Youngest Eagles (all 21) were Kameron Cheatham, Arrion Monroe and receiver Santiago Garcia. Youngest Cats were Tristan Braswell (HHS ’12) and Young, both 19, then fast back Desmond Whiteside (’11).

The Eagles were coached by Carroll “Moon” Mullins, once the coach and later East principal. Current Coach Brett Chappell’s first skill stars of QB Quinn and runner Michael Angram (’06) reunited with bruising TE-FB Trey Cornwell (’07) and others. Their success elevated the East-HHS rivalry. Quinn, who quarterbacked the entire contest, said the loss Saturday was his first ever to HHS. He is a Buncombe County detention officer.

Angram, 2005 superstar, was the squad’s offensive MVP Saturday. He said it felt “great” to play on E.L. Justus Field again. Still lean and fast, he leaped a Bearcat on one run. His son Malik, who turns 7 this week, plays up an age group (Termites) for East youth football. Malik was on sidelines.

Meanwhile, North Henderson-Edneyville had two father-son combos with the dads in their mid-50s. They were Jeff and Ben Pierson, and Anthony and Stanley Brigman. Jerry Thomas (‘93 Edneyville), a back, cannot wait for a North-West rematch in ‘13. “I’d like to do it again, next week if I could.”

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