HendersonvilleNews Stories

New weapons emerge for local football teams

By Pete Zamplas-FB2West_CodyJackson_BlazesBy_orig_WebThe four high school football squads of Henderson County all dropped openers as underdogs, but kept contests close and each had stars emerge to boost hopes for this season.

Lessons learned include that new Hendersonville quarterback Cole Cleary clearly will make defenses weary. Cleary sparkled in his debut, though HHS lost 28-14 to Asheville at home in a marquee matchup of explosive area heavyweight programs.

Cleary ran for 187 yards, including 119 in the first half when he ran for a five-yard touchdown and tossed a TD pass to Bradley Schmidt with five ticks left on the clock. Cleary led a late drive that came up two yards short. He kept tempo up, often in a no-huddle shotgun offense. HHS head coach B.J. Laughter described Cleary‘s instinctive scrambling and passing on the go as “phenomenal,” and praised his overall team effort.

Hendersonville led 7-0 and 14-7. But AHS scored the next three TDs, grinding out victory against a tiring team with half as many players and more playing two ways. Cougar runner Cameron Ray ran for three scores and 140 yards. AHS head coach Danny Wilkins praised the “bash” in his team’s defense.

North, West Close

The closest of the four local teams’ contests was the lone road game, as North Henderson fell 22-20 at Mountain Athletic Conference (MAC) power T.C. Roberson. North’s Tucker Garren ran two yards for a touchdown, but was stopped short on a two-point conversion that would tie the game. The most heralded quarterback in the county, Zack Gahagan, threw for 284 yards. He hit Cory Foster with two TD passes in the second quarter and booted both extra points, to take a 14-13 lead.

In many cases, local standouts were new starters as the teams reload. West Henderson lost to reigning 2-A state semifinalist Madison 33-21. But the Falcons showcased a balanced flexbone option running attack, led by Alex Ball, Dustie Fender, Cody Jackson and Jonathan Perron. New West QB Fender ran for three scores, the first one tying the game at 7 in the opening quarter. West fought back, to get to 26-21 with nearly six minutes to go.

Fierce Eagle Running

East Henderson held explosive 1-AA juggernaut Swain County to two TDs, and its record-setting QB Raymius Smith to less than 100 yards passing. That is the good news. But Swain got 152 rushing yards from brutish transfer Spencer McCoy, and shut out the Eagles 14-0. East had scoring chances, despite new East QB Austin Fisher’s often shaky debut against likely the area’s most rugged defense.

Fisher did best getting the ball to receiver Josh Conard. Conard and sophomore back Trey McClure both shined with hard running as East steadily ground upfield in a pivotal, long drive late in the third quarter. But Swain survived, intercepting a deflected pass near the end zone, and got a sack to squelch an East drive in the fourth quarter. In the first half, Conard picked off two passes. He returned one down the sidelines to the Maroon Devil to 10.

This Friday, Hendersonville hosts West Henderson. It is North’s turn to take on Swain at home. East plays at ground-controlling Robbinsville. Games start at 7:30 p.m.

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