The HHS D-line has Thunder and Lightning with strong Tyrese Cauley (90) applying a Bearcat bear hug to the Charlotte Christian ball carrier, as quick colleague Shawn Pearce (44) approaches. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Hendersonville Bearcats’ “Typhoon Tykel-Tyrese-Ty’rese” is storming the area, wrecking havoc on football teams each Friday and eager to sweep through the new Mountain Six Conference.
Dynamic receiver and cornerback Tykel Landrum, brutish tailback Ty’rese Hunt and menacing defensive tackle Tyrese Cauley are HHS stars along with WNC leading passer Bud Williford and new big receiver Kalin Ensley. These athletic playmakers made HHS a consensus favorite in the revamped conference it joins.
The MSC, formerly WNC Athletic Conference, is now all 2A. HHS comes in, from the Western Highlands (WHC). It replaces North and West Henderson and also Tuscola, which are in the all-3A Western Mountain.
HHS hosts both perennial frontrunners Franklin (Oct. 6) and Pisgah (Oct. 20). Pisgah-HHS is an instant must-see rivalry, since Pisgah coach Brett Chappell led East in its clashes with HHS last decade. East is now a conference game, along with Brevard and Smoky Mountain.
HHS looks to scorch Burns in an away game at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, hosts Heritage in a possible playoff preview, then is off before starting MSC play Oct. 6. Rushing-crazedHeritage no longer is a WHC rival, but is apt to collide with HHS in 2A playoffs. The victor could win it all — Heritage’s first state title, and HHS’ first since soon after a human first landed on the moon in 1969.
QB Bud Williford (4) leaps after heaving a pass. Ty’rese Hunt (25) and McGuire Hunter (59) are blocking protectors. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Hendersonville went 10-4 in 2016. The signature win was destroying host Surry Central 73-28 in round two of 2AA playoffs. Most of this cast returns — eight starters on offense and six on defense, and six of 10 all-conference stars.
Jim Sosebee debuted superbly as HHS head coach, after running the team’s spread offense as an assistant. The Cats surpassed 5,500 scrimmage yards last year, with the usual 3,000-plus in the air.
This year HHS (3-1) has scored over 50 points in two of its first four games. Last Friday, HHS made the “D” in Charles D. Owen High School stand for Devastating Defeat, stampeding the visiting Warhorses 52-13. HHS led 40-0 at halftime.
The Bearcats split with Knights. They opened by squashing cross-time rival North Henderson 58-7; North has since rebounded.
Next, the Cardiac Cats rallied to score two TDs in the final three minutes to edge impressive West Henderson 29-28 on Aug. 25. But they then dropped a 63-14 game to private school Charlotte Christian Knights.
Those Knights’ 6-foot-5 junior QB Garrett Shrader already has offers from Alabama, Tennessee and others. On one play, he looked left to fake the entire HHS defense, before quickly lobbing a strike down the right sideline to a wide-open receiver for a score.
Thus, the most recent win was pivotal. “The bounce-back win felt really good,” star receiver and cornerback Tykel Landrum said. He caught six passes for 227 yards in an explosive first half, averaging 38 yards per reception. Landrum (5-10, 170 sr.) had a typical TD Tykel evening Friday, taking a pass for a 92-yard score and another for 50 yards to paydirt.
Landrum set HHS marks in a playoff win over Surry Central, by catching 14 passes for 364 yards — which is second-best in the state all-time. He caught 96 passes for 1,775 yards (18.5 ypg.) in ’16, led WNC in receiving yardage and scored 28 TDs to average two per contest. He returns kicks, intercepted 11 passes last year and took three to the house to set a WNC mark and delight onlookers.
Richmond Felton (3) flies downfield on a 40-yard interception return against Charlotte Christian. Blockers include McGuire Hunter (59) and Daniel Pearce (42). Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Strong-armed Bud Williford (5-11, 195 sr.) returns for an encore, after a school record-setting first season leading the Cats. He statistically outdid QB predecessors Cole Cleary and Mike Schmidt, by throwing for nearly 3,400 yards. Williford passed for 36 scores (2.6 per game), but also 18 picks. Thus “Bud’s main focus is to cut down on turnovers, to make quick reads,” Sosebee said.
Williford has sparkled in crunch time. He willed HHS past upset-savoring West, leading the two late scores. In the winning drive, he ran to the six-yard-line. He soon tossed a one-yard pass to Ensley in the right corner of the end zone, winning it with 12 seconds left. Gentlemanly Williford credits his receivers for snatching anything thrown in their vicinity. His father is Chamber of Commerce Pres. Bob Williford. Thus, Bud fires bullets through the HHS “Chamber of Offense.”
Williford threw for 315 yards and four TDS in the first half against Owen, and another score in the third before subs poured in. He passed for 498 yards and a HHS-record seven TDs versus Surry in playoffs. He completed over 65 percent of throws, has a quick release, and puts good zip and spin on the ball. Overlooked is his seeing holes then running quickly. He ran for 11 TDs, to account for 47 scores last year. His 3,833 total yards averaged 273.8.
New weapon Kalin Ensley (6-3, 190 jr.) was the talk of the preseason. He was North’s QB last year. He scored four TDs versus Owen. He and Landrum each had over 145 receiving yards against NHHS. Ensley has swift 4.4 speed to zip by foes, moves to elude them, and size and strength to bounce off of tacklers. “He is dangerous” in open field, Sosebee said. Ensley succeeds his nephew, 1,000-yard receiver Leon Cooks, and wears his no. 10. Ensley’s father, Leon Ensley, was an HHS standout. Kalin was the “best JV player” in the WNCAC in ’15, Coach Chappell said. He calls him a “phenomenal runner.”
Other targets include quick WR Nasir Artis (5-9, 165 jr.), and reliable Justin Starnes (6-0, 170 jr.). Artis ran a NHHS kickoff 96 yards for a score. Teammates kiddingly call him “Tykel’s little brother.”
Much offense hinges on ball control by Ty’rese Hunt (5-11, 240 jr.). He rumbled for nearly 1,000 yards, and 15 scores, and averaged nearly 10 yards per catch in ‘16. “He’s such a threat in there,” Sosebee said. “Ty’ese is a power back, with great vision and feet to get through the (line) hole pretty fast and gain 15 yards.” He ran for three TDs against North. Cole McMurray (6-0, 190 jr.) ran for a late TD versus West. Left tackle Wyatt Holbert (6-1, 260 sr.) anchors the line.
New kicker-punter Tanner Gilliam (6-0, 175 sr) succeeds Drew Eudy, and has a steady field goal range of 42 yards.
The defensive front again shines in the 4-2-5 base defense, blending size and speed. Sacker and run-stuffer Tyrese Cauley (6-3, 250 sr.) is “a force inside,” Sosebee said. “He’s strong, and demands a double-team.” That frees linebackers, such as McMurray who made 90 tackles in ’16. Foes see double in twins DE Shawn Pearce (5-10, 205 sr.) and DB Daniel Pearce (5-11, 180 sr.). Sosebee realizes “we’ll go as far as the defense take us.”
Elsewhere last week, West cruised to a 42-7 win at North Buncombe on TV Thursday to open WMAC play. Elijah Nickell scooted for 223 (over 140 in the first half) of West’s 452 rushing yards. QB Dalton Cole hit Jason Wallace for a 51-yard pass play, to open scoring. West won by 30 and then 35 points, in the last two weeks. The Falcons are tied with Reynolds with the best overall mark (3-1) of WMAC teams.
This Friday is West’s turn for a week off. The Falcons welcome Roberson Sept. 22. North (2-1) was idle, and now hosts Tuscola (2-1) at 7 p.m. East (1-3), which lost a close 27-21 contest to Chase, is at Polk.