A key to HHS success is how first-year varsity starting QB Woody Hunter (6-0, 175 jr.) has emerged as a calm, steady and efficient catalyst. “Woody’s ballin’!,” Sosebee said with a grin. This was after Hunter threw for four first-half touchdowns — all to Ensley — in the signature win over Asheville in week three, and ran for another score.
Relentless power running of Ty’rese Hunt and Cole McMurray sets the stage for passing, and works off clock to protect big leads. Hunt (5-11, 220 sr.) ran for 154 yards against AHS, including a 47-yard score. He crunched for 1,309 yards (8.5 ypc.) and 17 TDs in ’17, and 2,300 yards and 32 ground scores in two prior years.
McMurray (6-1, 190 sr.), as a linebacker, is known best as an emotional leader on defense. Jayleon “Jay” Gaines (5-9, 150 so.) is “very fast, with great vision and lateral cuts,” Sosebee said. He said Gaines gives spark to a “Thunder and Lightning” rushing contrast.
Hendersonville (4-0) breezed to wins of 49-0 at North Henderson, then 35-7 over West Henderson. Last Friday, HHS broke open a close game (trailing 21-20) at inspired Owen, to win 49-28. Also Friday, East Henderson (3-1) cruised 47-21 at Chase Friday. HHS Bearcats host Burns this Friday, then are at Heritage which KOed HHS from playoffs last year. Thus, several Cats said they want payback Sept. 21.
They open Mountain Six play at Heritage then Franklin, before returning home Oct. 12 versus Smoky Mountain. HHS plays at M6 contenders Pisgah, Franklin and Brevard. On the surface, that makes it hard to sweep them and go unbeaten. Another multi-way tie for first is possible, and if so perhaps HHS ends up the top seed with a better overall record.
Ensley is the sole Bearcat who (as North Henderson’s QB) got a taste of Franklin (with cannons) and Pisgah (car horns) home TD celebrations and frenzied fans. He said playing there is a tough challenge, but one the Bearcats can solve.
Last year, HHS beat Pisgah 35-29 at home and all other M6 foes but M6 champ Franklin, then won two playoff games.
So far in this season, the crowning jewel was 49-38 over also-explosive Asheville Aug. 31, at home in the Bearcat-Cougar Cat-scratch Classic.
This was a homecoming for Asheville’s Tre’Von Robinson, who knew current Bearcats from Hendersonville Middle time together. Sadly, last Friday Robinson got injured at Roberson and likely misses the rest of his senior season. But two weeks ago, he was all smiles after the game when huddling with several of his HHS friends.
Robinson had over 200 receiving yards, despite being covered by buddy Ensley. Ensley made even more impact as a receiver, by scoring on four of his five receptions in the first half. Those plays covered 51, 48, 15 and 11 yards. He later made an interception.
When he is double-covered, it opens space for other receivers. Nasir Artis started this year in the top three in catches and receiving yards. He scorched AHS with his 4.47 speed, in returning kickoffs. Artis took one 81 yards to the house, and another 45 yards to set up a score.
Artis and fellow return man Ensley combined for nearly 300 all-purpose yards in the decisive first half that ended with HHS up 33-18. Caleb Greene (5-9, 175 jr.) has made many key catches, as the third receiver. Dorian Allen (5-11, 170 so.) is a flanker.
Tykel Landrum (HHS Class of ’18) kidded with a grin after that game that Artis “had better step up” to help fill his void as HHS receiver, DB and kick returner. Landrum was a spectator at the AHS game, and visited former teammates afterward. The Limestone College freshman set records and the standard in WNC, as a three-way superstar.
Artis (5-10, 170 sr.) calls it an “honor” to follow Shrine Bowler Landrum. “It’s a blessing, to try to fill Tykel’s shoes.” Ensley praises Artis’ skill and smart play, such as in running routes. Artis said of play-calling, “we have the smartest coach (Sosebee) around.”
Blockers include RG Derek Huntley (5-11, 245 sr.), LT Ethan Frisch (6-0, 270 jr.) and center Trevor Musselwhite (6-0, 276 so.). The main kicker is Jackson Carter (6-0, 175 sr.).
Defensive standouts include LBs McMurray, Richmond Felton (5-10, 215 jr.) and Xavier Jacobs (6-0, 195 jr.); DE Sidney Brown (6-1, 205 sr.) and DL Stephen Mahle (6-1, 240 so.). Hunt is now also a defensive end; he is also often in foes’ backfield. Backup QB Tristan Peterkin (5-10, 165 so.) starts at cornerback.
Defensive coordinator Phil Magdic is from the powerful Byrnes, S.C. program. HHS deploys 3-4 and 4-3 formations, rather than 4-2-5. Sosebee said McMurray “studies video and scouting reports. He’s like a coach on the field. We’ll go as far as he leads them.”
Beating Asheville is huge, several Bearcats said. QB Hunter calls in an immense “confidence booster.” Coach Sosebee said the game felt like a “playoff.” The teams cannot meet in the postseason, being in different classes. HHS is in 2A, Asheville two rungs up in 3A.
Meanwhile, last Friday East QB Garrett Adkinson twice hit Tyler Pace with TD passes, and ran 17 yards for an early score. East’s final two TDs were on runs, as Korbitt Collins rumbled 30 yards then fellow star linebacker-RB Kenny Pridmore ran five yards. East has played very heads-up, and scored on two alert plays. Jose Jose Hernandez snatched a fumbled punt snap, and ran 20 yards for the third East TD. Later, Mason Green grabbed a loose ball and ran three yards. East hosts Polk Friday.
West Henderson (2-2), which beat East a week earlier in the local Bird Bowl, let down in dropping a 31-6 home game to much improved North Buncombe. NB is 3-1 for the first time since 2008, and started the game with a kickoff return TD. West so far is rotating wins and losses — all blowouts. West is idle this week, then plays at talented but faltering Roberson.
North Henderson (0-3) is at Tuscola Friday, after a week off. Games start at 7:30 p.m.