By Pete Zamplas- Hendersonville won convincingly at Mountain Heritage for its biggest win this year, and West Henderson ran past North Henderson 33-14 as its conference title heights soar with frontrunner Franklin upset by Brevard.
As West Falcon quarterback Brandon Whitaker said Friday after the onset of conference games and title quests, “it’s time roll!”
HHS (4-2) handed sixth-ranked Heritage its first loss, 42-22 in their Western Highlands opener and Bearcats-Cougars cat fight.
Leading HHS was the passing combo of Bud Williford to Tykel Landrum. Landrum caught two touchdown passes, faking a defender on a screen to sprint free and open up a two-TD lead. He caught eight passes, for 194 of Willford’s 253 aerial yards. The quarterback threw for four scores, and ran for two more. Landrum has 809 yards and seven TDs receiving. He made two of his five interceptions on Friday. Both stars are juniors.
Franklin (2-3) has won the WNC Athletic Conference for the past three years, including last year despite a home loss to West. FHS already has a wart. The Panthers may have looked ahead to their showdown this Friday at Pisgah, eased up after leading upstart BHS 35-14 at home — to lose 40-35. BHS (4-1) senior star QB Tanner Ellenberger hit Nick Cabe on a 26-yard scoring pass in the final minute. FHS’ Brock Kloeppel ran for six TDs.
Two WNCAC contenders are unbeaten at 5-0, and reached 50 points Friday. Pisgah smacked winless East Henderson 50-0 Friday, while Tuscola won big (56-7) at Smoky Mountain.
West (3-2) beat North (2-3) at home. Whitaker ran for three touchdowns — the first for 10 yards. He said games with North are sentimentally strongest, with many cousins having played for the Knights. “I love playing them.”
So does Falcon fullback Peyton Frisbee, by now. He keeps bowling over defenders and racking up bowling-like stats — near 300 (yard) games. He rushed for 282 yards (196 by halftime) on 37 carries (7.6 ypc.) and TDs of six then 61 yards. A week earlier, he ran for six scores and 304 yards — for a two-week total of 586 yards.
West used its running depth to spell Frisbee in the second half, particularly when the workhorse was on defense ironically to relieve others. Jason Wallace added an even 100 yards (8.5 ypc.) against North. Tim Eplee showed his speed, slicing to the outside in the triple option. West ran 65 times for 425 yards (topping 420 for two weeks in a row), compared to 135 (on 20 carries) for the purple and yellow-clad visitors from Fruitland.
Knight QB Kalin Ensley accounted for two long scores. North got on the board first, as Ensley connected with Mikey Smithers for a 64-yard TD play. North made a two-pointer. Ensley later ran 74 yards for a TD — gaining the bulk of his 113 rushing yards. He threw for 136 yards, completing 11 of 19 passes. Head coach Justin Clark cites his improvement. Ensley also drew praise from West head coach Paul Whitaker.
Whitaker lauded his offensive line’s development, and role in “controlling the clock.” West dominated scrimmage in the opening quarter. But a lost fumble near the 20 snuffed out a score. North’s TD pass turned around momentum.
But by halftime, West made its own big plays and the defense put on the clamps, to take a 19-8 lead by halftime. Landon Owen’s hard early hit set the tone. As Coach Whitaker reminded his troops during the break, “no game is won in the first half.”
As an omen for the current title mission, West honored its last team to win a conference title on its 20th anniversary. That 1996 squad (9-2; 5-0) won the 2-A Apple Country Conference that united all four Henderson County schools.
West hosts Pisgah in two weeks (Oct. 7) for homecoming, and likely its biggest game to that point. First, in a “sandwich game” on the road this Friday, the Falcons need to avenge a letdown game last year versus Smoky Mountain. That loss by far had loomed going in as most winnable in ’15, keeping West from winning the WNCAC and instead settling for runner-up. Rain delays shortened Falcon preparation, and threw off routines.
Brandon Whitaker (3) races behind blocking Jason Wallace (6). Photo by Pete Zamplas.
West follows Pisgah by playing at Brevard then Tuscola, hosts Franklin Oct. 28, then closes the regular season at East Nov. 4. Pisgah has the toughest three games ahead, but two are in Canton. The Bears host Franklin, is at West Oct. 7 then welcomes their local rival Tuscola. The race goes through Canton, and will take shape by then. Many hope Tuscola is Brevard’s next prey, on Thursday. THS then plays at North Oct. 7, at Pisgah then hosts West.
North is eager to rebound, at East Friday. Games start at 7:30 p.m.