HendersonvillePete Zamplas

HHS sticks fork to Devils’ season; East nearly tops Smoky


Kalin Ensley (10) breaks a BHS tackle at the four, just before diving into the end zone for a 29-yard TD reception. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

HHS, the sole team among four in Henderson County to win Friday, moves to 7-3 overall and 3-1 in the six-team Mountain Six Conference.

HHS has clinched second place and a likely home playoff game, after beating Smoky Mountain (5-5; 2-2) two weeks earlier in a wild 51-45 barnburner on the road. “It felt good to win, knowing we clinched second place,” Bearcat star Tykel Landrum said. “We should have done (even) better,” instead of losing to Franklin. “But we’re happy with what we’ve done” overall, and with a new start in the postseason.

HHS wraps up its regular season with a tune-up at East Henderson (3-7), in WNC’s sole game this Thursday night. It will be on WMYA MY40 TV, at 7 p.m. Being the only show in the area “feels good,” Landrum said. “We always do well on TV.”

Smoky moved into third place, after winning 41-27 at East. East is tied at 1-3 with BHS (6-4) and Pisgah (5-5) in the M6. Unbeaten Franklin (10-0; 4-0) cemented the M6 title, after edging Pisgah (5-5; 1-3) by 17-13. FHS beat HHS 21-13 Oct. 6 in its only other close contest, and thus would own any tie-breaker with the Bearcats.

East quarterback Chris Hemphill unleashed an aerial attack of his own at timely moments, to nearly upset Smoky and star passer Nate Coffey. East led 27-21 in the second half, before SMHS scored the final 20 points — all in the fourth quarter.

Abby Nelson, who plays volleyball, won as East homecoming queen.

North Henderson (2-8; 0-7) sustained the “slings and arrows” of elite WMC gridiron combat, as Erwin (5-4; 5-2) came in and won 58-10. The Warriors led 37-0 in the second quarter. North QB Jaret Jystad hit Alberto Martinez for a 24-yard aerial score.

West Henderson (6-4; 4-3) fell 57-8, at powerful A.C. Reynolds (9-1; 7-0 WMC). West scored on Elijah Nickell’s six-yard run, then Isaac Woods’ two-point run. West has ensured a winning overall mark. ACR won its 23rd conference game in a row, as Alex Flinn threw for four touchdowns — the longest a 41-yarder to Bryson Patton — and 214 yards.

Hendersonville’s Bud Williford threw for 293 yards as well as three TDs, to retake the lead in WNC passing yards over Flinn and Smoky’s Nate Coffey. Williford has 2,480 and 23 TDs in the air. Coffey led the trio before Friday, but fell to third with 2,448 (and 21 TDs) as East held him to below 200 yards. Flinn has thrown for 2,349 yards and an area-best 28 TDs.

Williford ran six yards for the opening score, and for 89 yards on the night. He hit Nasir Artis for a nine-yard aerial score, with 50 seconds to go in the opening quarter. He connected with Kalin Ensley on scoring plays of 29 then 34 yards, both in the third quarter. Ensley caught three passes for 61 yards. He has 13 TDs and 886 yards receiving.

Tykel Landrum amassed 104 receiving yards on four receptions. He leads HHS with 929 receiving yards, and has six TD catches. Balanced receiving saw Justin Starnes and Artis joining Ensley with three receptions Friday. Landrum can beat his double teams with speed and leaping. He has seen fewer throws this year than last. But Sosebee assured that HHS will still go often to its main star.

Landrum pulled in a bomb, by leaping high and acrobatically like vintage Lynn Swann or Odell Beckham Jr. for one of his periodic Tykel Specials. Landrum’ timing is impeccable. “I don’t think about it, at the time,” he said of going up for the ball. He is also aware of defenders. “I got to fight for the ball. I always have to win that fight.” And he usually does.

HHS supplements its noted spread passing with bullish Ty’rese Hunt’s rushing. Hunt ran for 129 yards on 19 carries to average six yards, and for a change often bushed his way outside. He notched two scores. His first TD gave HHS a 20-0 first-half lead. His second one covered 15 yards, for the final TD as HHS led 41 to zip after three quarters.

Sosebee credits an improved, young offensive line. Freshman center Trevor Musslewhite and sophomore tackles Ethan Frisch and Kynan Joyce join senior guards Wyatt Holbert and McGuire Hunter.

A safety added the final two HHS points. The defense suffocated BHS, holding Mitchell Johnson to 40 passing yards and best rusher Stevi Benjamin to 51 yards.

Meanwhile at East, the Eagles scored three TDs in the second quarter and entered the locker room tied at 21 at halftime. Hemphill nearly matched Coffey’s yards, as he threw for for 191 yards. Each threw for two scores. Hemphill ran for two TDs, to one by Coffey, and accounted for all four East scores.

East’s TD receptions were by Tyler Pace (for 20 yards) and Caleb Shipman for 12. “The first score always starts us off” in momentum, Pace said. Hemphill to Pace is a 6-foot-5 passing combo. Shipman caught a 54-yard bomb, to set up Hemphill’s five-yard run at 39 seconds before halftime.

Hemphill completed 15 of 23 attempts. Two interceptions in the final quarter and three overall were costly. The athletic junior is progressing. He is throwing more off of scrambles, instead of only running.

As usual, he ran extremely well. Hemphill dashed in from a yard out for the go-ahead score, and a 27-21 lead in the third quarter. He extended the scoring drive with two runs of nearly 30 yards — one to pull a rabbit out of the hat, on third and 17 to go.

Hemphill ran for 71 yards (9 ypc.), and Shipman added 27. Jake Shattuck pounded 23 times for 75 yards. But “they contained our running in the second half,” noted first-year Eagle head coach Justin Heatherly.

Smoky countered Hemphill’s go-ahead run, with a TD plunge by bowling ball-shaped (5-6, 205) workhorse Mustang back Will Frady. That defied a gallant East goal-line stand. Frady ran for three TDs, and 98 yards on 29 carries. The extra point kick gave Smoky the lead back. Coffey hit Cody Lominac for a 22-yard insurance score.

The most pivotal penalty was a holding call on the Eagle defense, with East down merely one point. That negated a sack-caused fumble, that East pounced on. Instead, SMHS went on to score and retain momentum.

East registered an impressive seven sacks. “We’re right there, in the mix” of M6 standings, Heatherly told the Eagles. They barked out several “yes sir!” determinations about still working hard. Preparation and execution paid off in the signature Eagle win, of 27-22 over Pisgah on Oct. 13. That upset “showed we can play with anybody,” Heatherly said

This Friday, West welcomes second-place Asheville (6-4; 6-1) at 7 p.m. North is at Enka (2-8; 1-6), which was off Friday. North Buncombe (1-10; 1-7 WMC) has finished its season. If the Knights win, they will escape sole cellar occupancy by forging a three-way tie at 1-7.

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