Tanner Bullock (no. 35), the game’s top rusher with 107 yards, charges for 25 yards to set up a West TD. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
The dominant victory over the other red, white and blue-clad team proves that West’s veteran defense is up to an encore from the strong 8-5 season in 2014. This was a replay of the Falcons; two-way dismantling of Kings Mountain in a 3-A playoff in 2014, by leading 41-13 and winning 41-27.
Defensive end Davis Fisher (6-4, 220 sr.) registered three of his four sacks in the second half. Once while twirling quarterback Colby Edwards around, he kept thinking “I can’t let him go.” Edwards flew into the well-manicured grass.
Safety Tristan Thomas (6-3, 195 sr.) delivered a vicious hit early to break up a pass, setting the tone. “Awesome” is how it felt. West yielded merely two first downs in the opening half.
Davis Fisher (50) gets the first of his four sacks. Clay Privette (52) is also in pursuit. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Bulked-up James Murray (6-0, 202 sr.) was a superb two-way star. He recovered a fumble, and picked off a pass and returned it 25 yards. Soonafter, as a workhorse back, he ran for the final touchdown of the first half. He is also the placekicker and punter. His fake punt run clicked, but was negated by a holding call.
The 3-5 base defense returns 10 of 11 starters. Sixth-year Falcon head coach Paul Whitaker calls the D-unit “our lead sled dog. They’ve been through the Friday night battles. Our defense has to keep us close” against toughest foes. A daunting task is containing explosive Hendersonville (HHS) this Friday.
Inside linebackers are Stephen Perron (6-0, 205 sr.) who made 133 tackles (10 tpg.) in 2014, Tanner Bullock (5-10, 190 sr.) who had 116 (9 tpg.), and Shaq Rospel (5-11, 197 jr.). OLBs are Landon Owen (5-10, 160 jr.) with 96 tackles (7.4 tpg.), and OLB-safety Murray. Thomas made 94 tackles (7.2 tpg., 9.1 in ‘13). CBs are Dunbar and Dante Padilla (5-9, 145 sr.). The D-line includes Fisher and Clay Privette (5-8, 240 sr.).
Meanwhile, the offense reloaded perpetrators of its relentless rushing attack. On Friday West scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, rumbled for 277 first-half rushing yards, led 28-0 at halftime, and had a shutout until the final seven seconds.
Josh Penland (42) busts free for a 43-yard TD — the longest score. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Several Falcons took turns running for TDs. Quick new quarterback Brandon Whitaker (5-10, 151 jr.) drew first blood. He raced down the left side for 30 yards and the first score of the season, to ignite the onslaught. He credited his blockers. He got “butterflies” out on the second play, after his first varsity hit. He led JV to marks of 9-1 then 8-2. “He has a good grasp of the formations,” and is getting quick with decisions, Coach Whitaker said.
Then Josh Penland (5-10, 197 sr.) smashed in on a seven-yarder, to finish an 89-yard drive. Peyton Frisbee (5-10, 186 jr.) ran in from two yards out. Bullock set up that score, charging right for 25 yards. He rushed for a game-best 107 yards.
Murray scored next. Frisbee made the longest scoring run of the night with a 43-yarder, for a 34-0 second-half lead. Rospel and stocky Kyler Stocks (5-8, 166 jr.) ran hard.
Fastest Falcon Tyreke Dunbar (5-10, 147 sr.) scoots to the perimeter, on pitches and screens. Yet he also broke tackles near the goal line, on a key drive. TE/H-back Thomas is another weapon. Padilla adds depth.
West did not need gutty two-way standout Owen carrying the ball, in this lopsided win. Likely starting halfbacks/wings Murray and Owen “have great vision, and set up well behind blocks,” Whitaker said.
“We are blessed to be able to go three-deep in the backfield,” which gives rests to those also playing defense, he said. He noted newer starters are in “their third year together. They’re eager to continue their success” on the JV level. The new crop follows Cody Jackson, Brendan Goings, Dustie Fender and William Crouch of the all-senior 2014 backfield. West returns only three starters on offense.
James Murray (34) runs behind blocking of Josh Wesson (73) and Davis Fisher (50). Photo by Pete Zamplas.
West favors the run 70-30 in flexbone triple option, with some spread. “By conference play, we hope to get to a 60-40 ratio. So defenses can’t key on you.” The main pass target is athletic SE Tyler Sem (5-11, 156 sr.), backed by lanky basketball standout Davis Phillips (6-5, 172 jr.).
Several big West gain were negated by holding penalties. Whitaker said such mistakes have to be reduced, “to fight for the conference championship” which is a prime goal after finishing third at 5-2 in 2014. Keys include how “the offensive line gels” and provides “pass protection.”
Returning linemen are LT Josh Wesson (6-2, 255 sr.), LG Emet Gamez (5-8, 200 sr.) and LG Fisher. Joining them are adept RT Sam Gentry (6-3, 233 jr.) and/or Brandon Lovelace (5-8, 175 jr.), Alex Browning (6-0, 215 jr.) and Zeke Jones (6-0, 215 sr.). West will need points to keep up with HHS.
“We’re very confident,” Bullock said of that rivalry matchup.
In other openers last Friday, HHS dropped a 34-28 game at Murphy which gained nearly 500 yards. HHS’ Terrold Gary ran for 156 yards.
North Henderson stunned T.C. Roberson 14-7. Also on the road, East Henderson lost a clash of Easts by 57-25 to East Rutherford. It is East’s turn to take on TCR, at home. North Knights welcome Polk County this Friday. Games start at 7:30 p.m.