Heritage QB Trey Robinson surges toward the goal line, sticking the ball out as Daniel Pearce is wrapped around him. WNC’s career rushing leader ran the Cougars past HHS, in round three. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Hendersonville, the West Region third seed, finishes at 10-4. “I’m very proud of these guys,” HHS head coach Jim Sosebee said. “They were ‘ballin’ hard” in gridiron effort throughout the season.
The Cougars have beaten Bearcats in four of the rivalry’s last six Catscratch Bowls — the latest at home in “The Pit” in Burnsville.
Robinson, WNC’s career rushing leader, accounted for all four MHHS touchdowns. The senior quarterback repeatedly broke tackles ahead, or around end. He ran for a pair of one-yard scores. He set up the second TD by running half of the field on one play, as he surged ahead as usual then cut right.
He passes seldom, but both completions were for TDs. He threw a 24-yard TD pass to Mike McCoy Jr. He later tossed a short lob to Jacob Morse in the end zone, delivering the pass just before Daniel Pearce sacked him. Number 15 has thrown 12 TD passes, with only two interceptions — one in this game.
Robinson advanced further beyond the 8,000 yard mark as WNC’s all-time career rushing leader, as well as its rushing scorer. Bruising six-foot, 207-pound Robinson crossed the 3,000-yard plateau Friday. He has 3,004 rushing yards, after gaining 268 against HHS on 38 carries as he averaged seven yards. He outdid his 178 rushing yards in beating HHS earlier this year, when he ran for four scores. He twice topped 325 rushing yards in ’17, and averages 10 yards a smash-mouth pop.
Tykel Landrum leaps and nearly snatches this pass in the end zone, in his HHS finale. He is slated to play in the Shrine Bowl Dec 16. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
He has rushed for an amazing 43 TDs this year — including seven in round two, when he set a state single-game scoring mark by scoring (all) 52 points. He averages three TD runs per game.
Robinson called the playoff victory “huge. He said “it’s hard to beat a team a second time,” with so much familiarity and counter payback emotions.
“We battled as a team,” Trey Robinson said. It starts with blocking. “We’re so good up front,” he said. His father, MHHS head coach Joey Robinson said “Vince Lombardi once said it all comes down to blocking and tackling.”
Heritage is even more formidable when both of its senior Robinsons run for over 100 yards in a game. The much thinner Dathan Robinson — no relation — has 1,498 yards and 13 TDs rushing, after running for 135 (5.4 ypc.) on 25 carries. With defenders keying on Trey, Dathan gets a moment’s head start whenever he carries the ball. Yet he earned extra yards, breaking tackles and submarining ahead once HHS closed in on him.
Trey’s senior QB counterpart, Hendersonville’s Bud Williford, scored the final TD on a six-yard run midway into the fourth quarter. That was his 11th rushing TD of the year. He connected with Kalin Ensley for a 24-yard scoring pass play down the right side, to close the gap before the half. He passed for 228 yards, a TD and an interception which was in the last two minutes.
Williford finishes 2017 with 3,381 aerial yards, 34 TD passes and 15 picks along with 517 rushing yards (4.8 ypc.).
He is just behind Alex Flinn of 3AA Reynolds, which on Friday in its first West Region title game since winning it all in 2009. Flinn leads WNC passers with 3,461 yards and 29 TDs (to 8 picks). He threw for 264 yards last week. Those behind in ’17 include Smoky Mountain’s Nate Coffey (3,052; 27), TCR’s Ty Gossett (2,428; 26), and Joey Curry (2,158, 28) of Murphy.
Murphy, coached by Ednevyille native David Gentry, is reigning 1AA champ and advances into a showdown at Mt. Airy this Friday.
Williford totaled 45 scores this year. He threw for 400 yards in the 51-45 win at Smoky Mountain, and over 300 in three of his first four contests in ’17. He threw five TD passes versus Owen, four in round two of playoffs and three TDs in each of three prior games. He completed 58 percent of passes — 200 of 344. His QB rating is 106.3. HHS averaged 246 yards passing and 151 rushing in ’17.
Ty’rese Hunt rumbled 17 yards for the initial HHS score. That was his 17th rushing TD of 2017. Hunt ran for 96 yards in this finale, averaging nine yards. He rushed for 1,309 yards (7.2 ypc.) in ’17, for one of the finest HHS junior rushing seasons ever.
A main difference Friday was MHHS converted key third and fourth-down runs, Coach Sosebee noted. Often those were short-yard situations, set up by long runs on early downs.
Heritage (13-0), the second seed, went over 5,000 team rushing yards. MHHS controlled the clock and ran many more plays than the Bearcats, just as when winning 28-22 at HHS earlier. Both times, MHHS jumped to an early lead and then HHS rallied. The first time, HHS tied but Heritage won in final seconds.
This time, the Cougars led 16-0 after the opening quarter. They kept up that double-digit lead, including 24-13 at halftime after HHS fought back. MHHS nearly scored again at the end of the half, but Nasir Artis picked off a pass in the end zone.
Ty’rese Hunt runs for a 17-yard TD Friday, extending the ball over the goal line after breaking a tackle. He is among returning Bearcat stars in 2018. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
The Cougar defense was sure tackling on this chilly night, stopping the Bearcats cold on many plays including some fourth-down runs. A “spy” defender often keyed on QB Bud Williford, and periodically pounced on him in the backfield before he could run, pitch or pass. Such in-your-face pressure contributed to Tykel Landrum bobbling away pitch on an end around, on a pivotal fourth down.
“We beat an excellent football team,” Joey Robinson said of his long-time rivals in the Western Highlands Conference. He singled out Landrum, saying “Tykel is such a warrior” against much bigger foes. Landrum took a vicious hit, and after a spell hobbled off as fans on both sides applauded.
HHS finishes with a pair of 1,200-yard, big-play receivers in Ensley (1,258) and Landrum (1,246). Ensley has 19 receiving TDs. He surpassed 150 receiving yards four times, including in round two. Landrum caught seven TD passes. On Friday, Ensley caught five passes for 63 yards and Landrum six for 84. Ensley averaged 20 yards per reception, and Landrum 19.
Landrum had 1,913 all-purpose yards with over 100 each in all five categories. Williford led HHS with 3,898 total yards. Ensley (1,812) and Hunt (1,448) were next, also averaging over 100 total yards per contest. Landrum led the secondary with four picks, and had 11 last year.
Landrum is picked to play for North Carolina in the Shrine Bowl against South Carolina prep all-stars Dec. 16, at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. Even Robinson amazingly did not get that honor.
Several of these HHS standouts will now play basketball, along with big senior defensive tackle Tyrese Cauley. He made 89 tackles. HHS leaders are Shawn Pearce (95), Cole McMurray (91), McGuire Hunter (90), Cauley, Richmond Felton (86) and Rikard (76). Twins Daniel and Shawn Pearce combined for 26 sacks, and Cauley registered nine sacks. Most are seniors.
HHS will reload around such current juniors Hunt, Ensley, Artis, McMurray, Carson Rikard and Justin Starnes and sophomore Felton.
Meanwhile, Heritage plays at top West seed Reidsville, which is also undefeated. Heritage is eager to win its first-ever state title in a team sport. Trey Robinson noted after the win Friday he was the waterboy for the 2009 team that came closest, reaching a title game. He lugged water around then. Now, he carries the team on his back.
HHS cheerleaders get to work one more football game — the ACC title game Saturday, between reigning national champ Clemson and Miami. HHS and Polk girls will be among nearly 500 cheerleaders that Universal Cheerleaders Association chose from five Southeastern states.
They will be part of FanFest festivities that start 2 p.m, on Charlotte’s Tryon Street. The game is in the NFL Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium, televised by ABC with kickoff at 7:45 p.m.