HendersonvilleNews Stories

Cleary & Co. clearly emerging as top local football power

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By Pete Zamplas-Hendersonville pulled away from host East Henderson in the final quarter to win 29-6, breaking open a close football game Friday in the hottest local rivalry.

“They beat us last year,” star HHS receiver Raymond Reid said of a home loss. “We had to get this win.” The Bearcats did.

“East played very physical, up front,” HHS head coach B.J. Laughter said. “We had more depth, and wore them down.”

Eagle head coach Steven Whitt told his crew “our defense played with a lot of steam. For three quarters, we bent but didn’t break.” He said by crucial conference play, “We’re going to be fine. We just have to fix the little things.”

Reid twice caught passes for 80-yard scores in beating West Henderson in the prior game. He did it again, for the initial HHS touchdown against East that Laughter cited as a game-changer. It put HHS back up 10-6, by halftime. Reid caught six Cole Cleary passes for 162 yards and two scores, and recovered an early fumble. Reid said he cramped up while running for the long score, wondering if he would make it. He did.

Cleary ran for the other two TDs, one on a 39-yard keeper up the middle. He rushed for 131 yards on 16 carries and threw for 251, to total 382 yards after tallying 463 versus West. Cleary clearly took control with key runs in the hurry-up offense, as the Cats scored three second-half TDs in a row. East could not “yank his cord” emotionally, even after grasping his belt towel to slow him down.

Sawyer Heery opened scoring, with a field goal. Victor Mendoza made two of the four HHS interceptions.

East (0-3) blocked two extra points. Aaron Moody threw a 23-yard TD pass to wide-open Cameron Johnson, and East led 6-3 early in the second quarter. Moody also made several fine runs, impressing Coach Whitt in his first varsity QB start. Usual starter Austin Fisher was out with a concussion, from the prior game.

Several Eagles were hobbled Friday, most notably catch-run playmaker Josh Conard with a knee injury. On crutches on the sideline, Conard fiercely rooted on teammates. Nykeem Brooks and Nick Lyons ran well. Fellow sophomore Trey McClure was booted from the Eagles, and transferred last week to HHS.

HHS (2-1) goes for three straight victories over the other Henderson County teams, and to keep them winless. The Bearcats on Friday welcome North Henderson (0-2), and star QB Zack Gahagan. Last Friday, he threw for 300 yards and two scores but North lost 35-20 at home to strong Swain.

West (0-2), idle last Friday, hosts North Buncombe. Games start at 7:30 p.m.

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