CANDLER – For one night, all the lopsided losses were forgotten.
All that mattered to the Enka Jets and North Buncombe Black Hawks on Thursday was the chance to start a new season tied for first in the Mountain Athletic Conference.
Those stakes were plenty high to inspire a memorable performance by Enka quarterback Avery Holbrook, who produced 250 yards and had a hand in all five of his team’s scores as the Jets earned a 35-28 victory – their first at home in more than a calendar year.
“We’re 1-0, and we’re proud of our kids,” Enka coach Jeff Frady said moments after absorbing a Gatorade bath from his players. “We’ve worked really hard the past few weeks to get our kids to finish games. We bent, but we didn’t break. I’m really proud of how we finished.”
Holbrook completed 15 of 18 passes for 198 yards, including touchdown strikes of 8 (to Will Redmon) and 13 yards (to Anthony Johnson). He also rushed for 53 yards and three scores.
“It feels great,” Holbrook said. “We’ve been working hard … It’s nice to be on top of the conference. I’m looking forward to the next few games. It’s going to be a good season.
Down by 14 at halftime, gritty North Buncombe (0-6, 0-1) battled back with scoring drives of 17 and 11 plays and knotted the score on Nick Lisenbee’s fourth-down, 1-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.
But Holbrook revived a Jets’ offense that had managed just eight plays and zero points through the first 18 minutes of the second half. The Jets (2-4, 1-0) took advantage of a big kickoff return and a personal foul penalty then scored the go-ahead points on Holbrook’s 3-yard dive.
“Our guys are a gritty, tough bunch,” North Buncombe coach Curtis Cagle said. “They will not back down. They will not quit. They just keep fighting. Golly bum, somewhere in there you’d like a break to go their way.”
Even after Holbrook’s last score, North Buncombe marched from its own 13 to Enka’s 37 with under a minute to go but could get no farther.
Lisenbee had 134 rushing yards and two touchdowns to lead the Black Hawks.
For Enka, Redmon had six catches for 84 yards. Austin Clark added 47 rushing yards before being ejected in the fourth quarter.
Both teams started the game strong, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions.
North Buncombe needed just eight first-quarter plays to gain 108 yards and score two touchdowns, but Enka’s defense stiffened after that and held the Hawks to negative yardage until a last-gasp drive before halftime gained 44 yards but put no points on the board.
Meanwhile, Holbrook kept the Jets rolling by completing 12 of 14 first-half passes for 167 yards and helping Enka take a 28-14 lead into intermission.
A key sequence came shortly after North Buncombe, trailing by seven, recovered a fumbled punt at Enka’s 19. On the next play, Enka’s Dylan Sprouse picked a loose ball off the turf and sprinted 43 yards to Enka’s 38.
Five plays later, Holbrook pushed the Jets’ lead to 14 on his second touchdown run.