ASHEVILLE – For the past 13 years, Charlie Metcalf has been a fixture on the Asheville High football team’s sideline.
And although the Cougars assistant coach was in Houston on Thursday receiving treatment for his third bout with cancer since 2013, Metcalf still returned to man his post on Friday night at Asheville High Memorial Stadium.
Metcalf’s presence helped inspire the Cougars, who overcame four turnovers and a late fourth-quarter deficit to defeat McDowell, 30-20.
“He was here for the beginning of the game, and the kids were super-excited,” said Asheville coach David Burdette about Metcalf. “It was great to see him out there. He was helping me even though he hadn’t been here all week.
“We were super-excited, and we’re happy to have him for the next couple of weeks before he has to go back to Houston.”
With the victory, the Cougars (4-4, 2-1) avoided their first loss to the Titans (4-5, 1-3) since 1983. But for a majority of the contest, it appeared as if that prolific streak would end.
McDowell’s defense forced turnovers on Asheville’s first two offensive possessions, the first concluding on an interception by senior quarterback Devon Davidson and the second on a fumble into the end zone by senior receiver Makaius Brewer following a 59-yard catch.
But the Cougars’ defense stood strong. A 25-yard field goal by junior kicker Chase Baird accounted for the only points the Titans managed to score off the pair of takeaways.
“It was very huge,” said Davidson about Asheville’s defense stepping up. “That told the offense, ‘We need to go out and get a touchdown so we can turn this thing back around and win the game.’”
Davidson ensured that would be the case. The 6-foot-1, 182-pound quarterback helped manufacture scoring drives on Asheville’s next three possessions, giving the Cougars a 17-10 lead at halftime.
Asheville drove 80 yards on its final possession of the first half, as Davidson completed four passes for 45 yards and rushed for seven before finding Brewer in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown with 24.7 seconds remaining.
“We talk to our kids all of the time about staying even-keeled through the highs and lows,” Burdette said. “(Davidson) did a good job of that tonight.”
But the Cougars’ momentum couldn’t be sustained when the second half began.
McDowell registered a three-and-out to open the third quarter before forcing Davidson to throw his second interception moments later. The Titans took over on the Asheville 10-yard line, and sophomore Adam Randolph tied the game at 17 with a three-yard rushing touchdown.
After another three-and-out by the Cougars’ offense, McDowell appeared poised to take the lead when it pushed the ball down to the Asheville 10-yard line on its ensuing possession.
But following an offensive penalty, senior cornerback Daniel Green intercepted a pass at the 2-yard line to send the Cougar bench into a frenzy.
“I was just so happy for him,” said sophomore receiver Trevon Robinson about Jones’ interception. “He got the whole crowd pumped, and we had to come back and fight through adversity.”
Baird made his second field goal of the night to give the Titans a 20-17 lead with 5:02 left in the game. But Asheville delivered a quick response, as Davidson completed a 69-yard pass to junior receiver Dana Campbell to set up a 6-yard touchdown run by senior Ahmad Shivers.
Then, after McDowell turned the ball over on downs, the Cougar running back put the finishing touches on the victory with a 26-yard touchdown scamper.
With consecutive wins over Enka and McDowell, Asheville has now secured victories in back-to-back games for the first time all season. And after a slow start and many adjustments, the Cougars hope this is just the beginning of a string of victories.
“Tonight was another group (effort),” Burdette said. “We weren’t always in the right spot, but we were in the right spot more than we had been earlier in the year. So if we can just keep that going and clean up some of those mistakes, we can hopefully win four or five in a row.”