The Mountain Athletic Conference’s winner can emerge within two weeks. ACR (4-1) plays at Erwin (2-3), which also has a lethal spread offense, this Friday then on Oct. 2 hosts defending MAC champ Asheville and its power running. Asheville (4-0) welcomes Erwin on Nov. 6, to close the regular season.
Erwin nipped rugged Franklin 40-35 on Friday, as Chase Austin caught a tipped pass to win it. C.J. Thompson caught a touchdown pass, and ran a kickoff the distance. AHS was off.
Shane Laws, ACR’s tall ninth-year ACR head coach, looks and grunts like OSU coach Urban Meyer whose top-ranked Ohio State defends its national title. Reynolds, now 3-A, won the 4-A football state title in 1999, 2002 and ’09 and has much promise for this season.
Rocket quarterback Dowdle and backs Logan and Shaqwan Jones sprinted through HHS (1-4) Friday. ACR scored on all eight first-half drives, notched 42 points in a row with over 400 yards, and played reserves in the second half.
HHS’ Tykel Landrum cuts past ACR star safety Nathan St. Onge (12), for one of his two receiving TDs. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
The 56 points are the most an ACR varsity football squad has scored in a first half, since the school opened 60 years ago, according to longtime statistician Scott Tweed. Reynolds tagged an ACR-most 76 on Enka for a full game, in 2014.
Logan’s Run was a sci-fi movie, in 1976. This Logan’s runs make for horror flicks, for foes. Logan (5-9, 190 sr.) sprinted left, shifted into overdrive and soared down the sideline for the first two ACR scores. He blazed 33 then 36 yards, in a deja vu. Logan’s third opening-quarter score covered most of the 81 yards in open field, off a reception.
Dowdle ran for three TDs, to total 18 ground TDs and average 3.6 per game. Dowdle (6-0, 203 sr.) does not dawdle. He has a 4.31 40 time. “Rico made good throws,” improving his accuracy, Laws said. The reigning MAC top offensive player shifted from RB to QB, to pair with Logan in the backfield. “They’re two super football players and athletes,” Laws said. “You want to involve them both. They’re dynamic.”
Laws noted “we have many guys who can make plays.” Backup TB Jones (6-0, 192 jr.) scorched HHS for a 67-yard burst, and eight-yard TD run. “He’s power with speed, as well. He’ll get his shoulders down,” Laws said. Jones rushed for 473 yards (6.1 ypc.) and five TDs in ’14, and at times joins Logan in a “two-(half)back package” for a three-headed backfield monster.
Bearcat Michael Cook (12) swivels past Austin McCurry (10) into the end zone. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Flanker Keyal Talbert (5-6, 160 jr.) returned an HHS punt 65 yards for a TD. He faces his former school, Erwin, Friday.
Indeed, HHS head coach Eric Gash told his troops after the game, “this is what D-1 looks like.” HHS is plenty fast itself. As he noted, “You can’t simulate that kind of speed and agility in practice.” Shelby can, and beat ACR 56-39 in week two. Erwin is also fast.
Dowdle in 2014 ran for 1,309 yards and 17 TDs — five in a wild 38-31 playoff win over Erwin. He averaged 7.35 yards a carry. Logan topped 800 yards and six per carry with double-digit rushing TDS — all for the second year. This tandem exceeded 2,100 yards and tallied 27 TD runs.
“They’re both physically strong, and tough to bring down,” Laws said. “They both have track-type speed, to change gears and pull away. Rico has more wiggle — stop, and start to make people grab air. A.J. has such vision. He sees the play open up and develop — a step or two ahead of others seeing it — and goes.”
Dowdle is a “dual threat. He’s got the green if a seams open up for him to run through,” Laws said. Dowdle succeeds Tevin Stafford. Heir apparent Nathan St. Onge (5-9, 165 so.) hurled a bomb, in relief versus HHS.
Bearcat tacklers converging on ACR’s Kristopher Sprouse (40) for a safety include Jacob Gash (54), Greyson Rogers (59), Jhon Salguero (3) and Cole McMurray (22).
“We expect defenses to load the box, to take Rico and A.J away and force Rico to throw downfield,” Laws said. “He’s making the throws.” Starting receivers include sharp Cameron Roberts (5-9, 170 sr.), unique Eunique Waters (6-2, 175 sr.), and veteran Andrew Moore (6-1, 180 sr.).
ACR returns half of starters. Back up front are RT Tyler McLaughlin (6-4, 290 sr.), a third-year starter, and RG Jake Setterlind (6-6, 320 so.) who is also strong and mobile. Joining them are LT Kyle McWhirt (6-1, 275 jr.), LG Taylor Buckner (6-2, 270 so.) and center Randall Cooper (5-11, 210 sr.) “We’re bigger,” Laws noted. kicker River Naisang (5-10, 165 jr.) has 40-yard range.
The Rocket defense, now 4-2-5, is sparked by quick hard-hitting OLB Andreas Hill (6-1, 215 sr.). Overall, this unit pursued and tackled surely, sacking Mike Schmidt six times in the opening half. “We are progressing” on defense, which is a “work on progress,” Laws said.
He shook his head about allowing big yards on screen passes. Erwin thrives on yards after catch, and has the other QB in WNC to already surpass 1,000 yards. Erwin junior Damien Ferguson reached 1,042. He threw for an even 300 against Franklin.
HHS’ Schmidt has thrown for 1,363 — after compiling 465 yards Friday. He completed 34 of 45 passes. Two of this three TD passes were to swift super soph Tykel Landrum, for 36 then 40 yards. The first tied the game at seven. Schmidt ran for two more scores.
Coach Laws sees Reynolds as “more physical, faster and smarter than in the last two years. This is a team that can battle for the conference championship, get into playoffs and do something.”