By Pete Zamplas-Hendersonville Bearcats “Gashed” visiting West Henderson 52-13 Friday, registering their first football victory of 2012 with a blend of power with the usual game-breaking speed.
HHS (1-1) led 31-7 at halftime, repeatedly striking for long gains on runs and pass receptions.
The Bearcats are earning a Superman-like nickname of the Men of Steele — as in Keisler Steele. The 5-foot-10, 225-pound bulldozer is channeling Sam Gash, Bearcat power runner of a quarter-century ago. Gash, whose brother Eric helps B.J. Laughter coach current Bearcats, starred for HHS then Tennessee and was an all-pro fullback.
Steele typified the evening by running through and around the Falcons, on a 32-yard run that set up a score. He ran up the middle, bounced right, shook off a tackler, and cut upfield. He dodged right to fake out a tackler, who collapsed and accidentally tripped a teammate. Steele charged along the right sideline, before two Falcons knocked him out of bounds short of the goal.
Quarterback Cole Cleary dashed in from 15 yards out. Cleary ignited the brisk, no-huddle offense with five TDs. Cleary rushed for nearly 200 yards on 10 tries. He ran for two scores, and threw for three more including to swift Raymond Reid on a pair of 80-yard scoring plays. Reid totaled 184 yards on four receptions. Bradley Schmidt was a sure-handed target. Other HHS receivers dropped several passes. But defenders made up for it, recovering three West second-half fumbles.
West QB Dustie Fender made two amazing, zigzagging runs in the triple option as WHHS controlled the ball in stretches behind its big line. Cody Jackson sliced through on many good kick returns. Alex Ball accounted for both West TDs. He broke free up the middle for a nine-yard TD run, to cap an 83-yard drive. That cut the lead to 17-7, before HHS struck twice more before halftime. Later, on a halfback option, Ball tossed a 16-yard scoring pass to 6-foot-3 Taylor Guyer.
The phrase “left it all on the field” took on added meaning at the close of the first quarter, when in the summer heat a Falcon lineman regurgitated his meal onto the playing field.
Also Friday, East Henderson lost 48-26 at Robbinsville. RHS back Cruz Galaviz ran wild, shifting from Cruz control to overdrive. He gained 374 yards on merely 13 carries. Galaviz scored nearly half of the time he ran the ball — six times — on runs ranging from 41 to 80 yards.
That is a bad omen for East, which this Friday hosts big-play Hendersonville in the current, premier intra-county rivalry. West (0-2) is off Friday. North Henderson (0-1), which was idle last Friday, hosts powerhouse Swain County in a showcase of QBs Zack Gahagan of North and Swain’s Raymius Smith. Games start at 7:30 p.m.