Tuscola out to turn the tide in Haywood rivalry

Bailee Ewart (22) and Tuscola are 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the Western North Carolina Athletic Conference.

Bailee Ewart (22) and Tuscola are 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the Western North Carolina Athletic Conference.

WAYNESVILLE – Tommy Pursley has stockpiled 250 career wins and been a part of three state-championship games as well as four semifinals.

Tuscola’s third-year football coach takes offense to others have referred to Friday as “the game of the century” for him.


However, it doesn’t make Pursley’s current job any easier.

He has to reign in an undefeated team and somehow keep everyone on-point when Friday’s matchup between the Mountaineers (7-0, 3-0) and homestanding Pisgah (7-0, 3-0) should attract one of the largest game crowds in Western North Carolina history.

Kickoff is Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Canton, and it wouldn’t be surprising if a game that has attracted 10,000 or more fans in the past pushes new limits given the circumstances.

“The pressure for me is that we are 7-0 and trying to get to 8-0 against a very good football team,” Pursley said.

“The challenge will be handling all the noise and that big crowd. We have a lot of starters (nine on offense, eight of defense) who played in this game last year and have a better idea of what to expect. Our players hear a lot more of the hype than I ever do. The trick is hemming that in properly. As far as the football game itself goes, our practice on Monday was like hundreds we’ve had before. This is a big game, but every week is a big game for us and we treat them the same.”

This is the 53rd year that Pisgah and Tuscola have played football. The Mountaineers lead the overall series, 26-25-1, even though they have dropped the last three games.

Tuscola averages 357.4 rushing yards per game with the combined work from Caleb Ferguson (1,074 rushing yards, 138 receiving yards and 27 combined touchdowns), Brent Turner (484 yards, three touchdowns) and Roman Jenkins (434 yards, two touchdowns).

Grayson Perkins (469 yards and five touchdowns with one interception) is a first-year staring quarterback.

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