By Pete Zamplas-North Henderson Knights nearly slayed their second heralded foe in a row, leading much of the way before falling 29-21 at home to those other Knights of Robbinsville.
In Star Wars terms, The Force’s “Dark Side” prevailed as visiting Black Knights beat the white Knights. Robbinsville (RHS) at 4-0 is ranked as a top five team in the state in 1-A, a renewed power in the Smoky Mountain Conference with perennial state title contenders Swain and Murphy. RHS was once dominant, in winning state titles in nine of 11 straight years through 1983.
Yet North (1-3) thrives as an underdog, knocking off another 1-A power in Hendersonville — on the road, a week earlier. It nearly happened again.
The local Knights’ most pivotal play Friday was Eric Aguirre‘s dazzling zig-zagging interception return, covering more than a third of the field. Soonafter, Caleb Rogers’ long run around left end set up Tucker Garren’s one-yard touchdown plunge. North led 14-7. North’s first TD was on Trevor Craft’s four-yard pass to Corey Foster, in Craft’s first start after subbing last week due to injuries.
Halftime was deadlocked at 14. North seized the lead again on the opening drive of the second half, sparked by Foster’s catch and run. Rogers’ five-yard run was the crowning touch.
But Robbinsville matched the TD, then daringly ran for a two-pointer to lead 22-21. RHS was led by passing of Dakota Crisp to Alex Walsh, son of head coach Dee Walsh, and running of strong Skyler Matheson and quick Cruz Galaviz who burned East Henderson for long six TD runs in week two. North contained Galaviz, until he scored the last two TDs. He kept a drive alive on fourth down, running off of a fake punt snap.
North head coach Jason Dinwiddie liked his team’s fight, but noted “it wasn’t enough.” He told his team after the game “we gotta execute” plays better. Aiming high, he yelled “we’re going to win a championship” — in the WNC Athletic Conference (WNCAC). Conference openers are this Friday.
Last Friday, the other three local teams lost on the road — West Henderson 47-31 at Mountain Heritage, East Henderson 47-17 at Polk County, and Hendersonville (minus concussed QB Cole Cleary) by 20-14 at Christ School.
This Friday in Canton, East Eagles tangle with their prior head coach Brett Chappell who now leads Pisgah Black Bears. As if an eery omen, a big black bear last Friday roamed in an East player’s back yard. North hosts West Friday then East Oct. 4 in WNCAC contests, with intent to sweep the three other teams in the county while those other two squads are hungry for their first victory. Hendersonville (2-3) starts its Western Highlands season, at home versus Heritage.