Big news beyond the games is receiver-cornerback Tykel Landrum of HHS was chosen to play for North Carolina vs. South Carolina in the Shrine Bowl Dec. 16 at Wofford College. WNC record-holder Landrum is within 24 yards of 4,000 career receiving yards, and has 219 receptions with 31 this year for 664 yards and five scores.
In the “North Bowl,” North Buncombe snapped its 21-game losing streak at the expense of North Henderson by 48-14 last Friday. East Henderson (2-5) also yielded 48 — at Brevard — but managed 28 points in its Mountain Six (M6) opener.
West has achieved the rare feat of two OT victories in a season — both in WNC’s elite conference. The Falcons at 5-2 have the best overall mark of the four Henderson County teams.
North Henderson (2-5; 0-4 WMC) hosts West (5-2; 3-1 WMC) this Thursday at 7 p.m., in a game televised on WMYA MY40. In this rivalry “you throw records out the window,” West head coach Paul Whitaker said. “It’ll be a dogfight.”
A letdown is understandable early into the next game and moreso on short rest, both after an emotional OT victory and as a “trap” sandwich between two big games. After playing North Knights, West finishes its WMC season against three contenders. The Falcons host Tuscola and Asheville, and in between go to reigning champ Reynolds.
West’s first WMC blemish is a 46-21 loss at Erwin. That was the week after a huge 28-25 overtime win Sept. 22 over another usual contender in Roberson. “We came out kinda flat but also had several penalties, drops and interceptions in the first half” at Erwin, Whitaker noted. “You can’t make those mistakes — especially against good teams such as Erwin.”
As for playing a day early, Whitaker said Thursdays is usually a “walk-through” of game plays rather than a full practice. “This game will be our walk-through.” He hopes for similar results, when West ran through North Buncombe 42-7 Sept. 7. That was West’s other TV Thursday contest, and against the Western Mountain’s other North team.
“Defend your turf on every play!” was Whitaker’s rallying cry to his Falcons at halftime with the score knotted at even. The Wing T West Wonders responded.
Trenton Gasperson scored West’s initial TD, on a seven-yard run. Each team added another touchdown in the second half, which ended at 14 a piece. West QB Dalton “Lefty” Cole finished a drive’s final yard, running in for the go-ahead TD.
In the first overtime, Gasperson charged in from three yards out. Enka (2-6; 1-4 WMC) matched the TD and extra point. In the second OT, Enka scored again but this time missed the extra point. That opened the door for West, on its turn starting from the 10-yard-line. Falcons Gasperson, Elijah Nickell, then Jason Wallace ran to get to a half-yard of the goal line.
Then on fourth down, Cole, who is 6-foot-4, used his reach to good advantage to reach into the end zone. That tied the score, at 27. Cole scored West’s final touchdown in both of its OT wins this season.
Kevin Isidro kicked the extra point through the uprights, for the victory. He had missed a 21-yard field goal in waning seconds of regulation. “He was a little down on himself” after that miss wide right, Whitaker noted. “I patted him on the back, and told him ‘you’ll have to make another one (PAT) in overtime. I could tell the players still had confidence in him,” by their assuring him.
The 5-7 sophomore, in his second year as varsity Falcon kicker, had chance to redeem himself. He did. “He nailed it!,” Whitaker said. Then in practice Monday, he tried the same 21-yard field goal he missed and made it on all ten tries.
West’s homecoming queen is Natalie Stanley, the senior class president. She was escorted by Zachary Hunold, a junior.
Crowning by FHS
Meanwhile Hendersonville (4-3) quarterback Bud Williford was crowned homecoming king at halftime, which also honored the school’s newest Hall of Fame inductees.
But in the second half, a fierce Panther pass rush “crowned” Williford in a harsher manner. HHS head coach Jim Sosebee pointed to that pass rush as a major factor in the outcome. “They were killing our quarterback,” chasing him soon and deyning time for long pass routes to develop, he told The Tribune.
Further, short receptions and runs usually gained few yards with the first Franklin (7-0) defender to the ball carrier usually tackling him. A defensive highlight for HHS was smashing the ball loose on a FHS run; the ball popped high into the air and into Bearcat hands at Franklin’s 32.
Williford soon after dashed 20 yards around the left side on an option keeper, to the one-yard line. Ty’rese Hunt hammered in, for the tying TD at 7-7 halfway into the second quarter. The tying TD then a halftime lead “felt great,” Williford said right after he was crowned homecoming king.
Williford hit Landrum for a few long gains, such as on four-an-one. He connected with Nasir Artis for 18 yards, on third-and-eight to cross midfield with just over six minutes left.
Tanner Gilliam of HHS made both of his field goal attempts. The first, a 27-yarder, put the Bearcats ahead 10-7 lead before halftime in this battle of red-clad squads. Gilliam’s 34-yard boot expanded the lead to 13-7, midway into the third quarter. The drive covered 34 yards, starting near midfield after Landrum’s long interception return.
Fiery Coach Brooks the Panthers “you beat a very athletic team” with its grit and tenacity. Sosebee told his team in the post-game huddle to expect another “war” each week in the M6 HHS has joined. West, North Henderson and Tuscola moved out, and into the WMC.
M6 is an appropriate nickname. It sounds like British secret service, reflecting trickier play-calling of HHS and Pisgah. Yet there is no secret to Franklin’s offensive game plan — run, run and run in grueling, time-consuming long drives. HHS from its Western Highland contests is used to another run-heavy team in Heritage, which it lost to 28-22 in the prior game.
Brock Kloeppel and Brent Stiles took turns churning out yards as Franklin’s I back. Burly Kloeppel broke free for a 54-yard score midway into the final quarter, as FHS took a 14-13 lead. He opened scoring, with a 15-yard TD run. Lanky QB Andrew Moore on fourth down ran for a first down, to extend that drive.
Quicker Stiles scored an insurance TD on a four-yard jaunt, on a drive set up by an interception. Stiles, Landrum and West’s Cole each aptly wear no. 7, since they often score TDs. HHS trailed by eight, and thus could tie with a TD and two-point conversion. But the two-minute drill ended with more sacks by FHS.
Hendersonville homecoming queen Virginia Frances Teel plays volleyball. She acts in Flat Rock Playhouse’s YouTheatre. She has the same first name as her mother. Her father Starr Teel owns and runs Hubba Hubba Smokehouse in Flat Rock.
Hendersonville next faces a “trap” letdown game at Smoky Mountain, before returning home to face M6 contenders Pisgah (5-2) Oct. 20 then Brevard (6-1) on Oct. 27 again at 7:30 p.m. HHS visits East Nov. 3. This Friday, East hosts Pisgah at 7:30 p.m.