By Pete Zamplas – Asheville Cougars roll their Tre’Von Train into Skyland Friday for a WMAC-opening clash with T.C. Roberson Rams.
This is a week after WNC leading receiver Tre’Von Robinson reeled off over 200 receiving yards and Three Hillier threw for 387 yards and five touchdowns, in a 49-38 loss at Hendersonville.
Both teams’ stars said how they intensely want to win this opener. The result was close last year — 23-22, favor of host Asheville. The Cougars then won 33-6 at Erwin; this time they get the Warriors at home Sept. 14 after playing TCR in Skyland. Erwin (2-0) beat Mitchell 34-21 then Heritage 50-40, then was off last week.
Frequent frontrunner Reynolds lurks, as the visitor to AHS Oct. 12. ACR (2-1) and quarterback Alex Flinn (6-2, 215 sr.) fell at Southern Durham 27-24, but edged talented Shelby 17-14 then blew out Owen 48-9. Reynolds opens at Erwin Friday, in an early showdown. The WMAC race will take shape after merely two weeks.
As Cougar star lineman Kaliq Moore among others said, the early losses are frustrating but slate is clean starting with the conference opener. Last year AHS dropped all three non-conference tune-ups, but then stormed to five WMAC wins in a row before falling to Reynolds. AHS (7-5 overall) was WMAC runner-up at 7-1.
Moore (6-2, 250 sr.) said “We have to execute to the fullest,” to be efficient on offense and contain on defense.
Roberson echoes that view. TCR was 3-8 (3-5 WMAC) in ’17, but lost five games by a total of 12 points. The Rams could even reverse that mark this season by winning such close contests. But in 2018 they dropped their first three by 24, 36 then 55 points to teams (Watauga, Crest, Kings Mtn.) they nearly beat a year ago.
Roberson (0-3) and AHS (1-2) as usual each endured tough pre-conference schedules. Last Friday at Hendersonville, the good omen is Asheville burned out the visitor’s side of the scoreboard. But HHS (3-0) lit it up even more, winning 49-38. Still, the Cougars flashed big-play capability on passes and kick returns.
Tre’Von Robinson (6-1, 180 sr.) rolled up 209 yards on 13 catches — and caught two first-half TDs. His kick return to midfield was among other big plays, as AHS fought to stay within reach of high-scoring host HHS. Robinson leads the mountains with 525 receiving yards and 34 catches after the first three weeks. He is one of the most athletic and strong receiving targets in the WMAC, and extra dangerous on long routes.
Tallest AHS receiver Famous Pasley (6-5, 183 jr.) can “jump out of the gym,” head coach David Burdette said, and has a tremendous reach edge over defenders. Pasley showed that Friday, pulling in a 50-yard TD bomb. He made six receptions.
Burdette sees a silver lining from the offensive firepower. He was most concerned about such mistakes as a defensive penalty giving HHS new life on fourth and eight. Getting back to “smart situational” play is essential, Burdette said.
Asheville so far lost at two Mountain Six teams in Franklin (37-29) and HHS, sandwiched around a 35-10 win over Webb (Tenn.).
AHS could not slow HHS 6-4 receiver Kalin Ensley Friday. He caught four TD passes in the first half. Yet Burdette said “we won’t face a receiver like that” in size, speed, leaping, catching and open-field running. His own pair of big star receivers may come closest in the area, and he likes them over any other pair around. TE Marvin Pearson (6-3, 237 sr.) is another big and skilled target.
AHS has its usual speed at receiver, too, keeping the Campbell name on the 15 jersey. Dana, a 2018 grad, is succeeded by Justin Campbell who on Friday scored on a run and later on a reception. He made seven catches for 62 yards, and ran eight times for 33 yards. Krishon Williams (5-8, 145 sr.) also scored on a pass play Friday.
WMAC rivals have more speedy than big receivers such as Erwin’s Simeon Thompson (5-10, 157 sr.), rather than a Kalin Ensley prototype. Erwin does have burly Tristian Brank (6-3, 220 sr.). ACR features its own apostrophe star in TB-flanker I’dre Bell (5-10, 190 sr.), and reloads with Jhari Patterson (6-0, 180 jr.) and Carter Lindsay (6-0, 175 so.).
Roberson features a Tre’Von-type multi-skilled threat in Kobe Miles (6-1, 180 sr.). He is the returning half of a 1-2 punch that at times seemed unstoppable at Asheville a year ago. His cohort Barshia Young graduated, as did main TCR runner Shag Gist.
The running game is pivotal for both teams, to compliment passing. AHS misses Tristen McAfee (6-0, 185 sr.), who is injured. Foe Ty’rese Hunt pounded for 164 yards as HHS out-rushed AHS 252-88 Friday, with 165 yards in the second half. Historically, AHS has controlled the clock with its I-formation running.
These days the Cougars are in the spread under Burdette. Three (Bill III) Hillier (5-7, 185 jr.) is their mobile and strong-armed quarterback. He completed 26 of 42 passes, for six TDs and merely one pick Friday. He is already closing in on 1,000 passing yards, with 963.
This counterpart is Roberson’s strong-armed, burly and fiery QB Ty Gossett (6-3 1/2, 220 sr.). Gossett cut down his interceptions last year, compared to his sophomore campaign.
Beating Asheville can erase the rough ’18 start, and ignite the Rams’ redemption tour under coach J.D. Dinwiddie. Gossett said he looks for payback starting against Asheville, to “show how good we really are.”