Football

Mustangs at home for titanic WNCAC matchup

Smoky Mountain senior Matthew Ridley (19) is the leading rusher in Western North Carolina.

Smoky Mountain senior Matthew Ridley (19) is the leading rusher in Western North Carolina.

September means there is less daylight and more on the line for every single football team.

Doesn’t Smoky Mountain and first-year coach Chris Brookshire know it.

The Mustangs (4-0) are home for Friday’s Western North Carolina Athletic Conference game against an undefeated opponent with an identical record — Tuscola (4-0).

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in Sylva.

“They’re all big this time of the year,” Brookshire said.

“Especially in this situation where I believe we’re playing one of the best football teams in Western North Carolina. Believe me, it shows on film. It is the next game on our schedule, but there is a lot riding on it. We’re excited about the opportunity, especially with it being at home.

Smoky Mountain is one of the best underdog stories in mountain football at the moment. The team from Jackson County hasn’t been 4-0 in 18 years or had a winning season in 17.

Senior Matthew Ridley (771 yards, seven touchdowns) remains the top rusher in WNC.

N.C. State baseball recruit Cole Hooper (701 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions) is slinging a football at the moment, and slinging it well. His top receivers are Austin Baumgarner (13 receptions for 198 yards and two touchdowns) and Connor Moore (11 receptions for 199 yards and one touchdown).

The defense has been keyed up by Kyle Bradley (7.5 tackles per game) and Michael Ashe (6.8).

Brookshire is a 1988 Tuscola graduate, but Friday’s game is going to be a challenge, whether it’s personal or not. The Mustangs haven’t beaten the Mountaineers since 2012 and are 2-8 in their last 10 meetings.

“When you face an offense like Tuscola runs (the triple-option), you have to play assignment football,” Brookshire said.

“Our kids have been locked in all week at practice, and we need to be. At any given moment, Tuscola can break a 60-yard play if you make a mistake. They have a lot of kids who can run, some really fast kids who run good angles. We’ve got to be on our game to give ourselves a chance to win.”

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