Mountain Athletic Conference
ERWIN (2-3) at REYNOLDS (3-2), 7 p.m.
Last week: Erwin beat Franklin, 57-34; Reynolds beat Hendersonville, 40-17.
Last year: Reynolds beat Erwin, 35-18.
Notes: Getting into a shootout with Erwin is not advised. As of this week, senior quarterback Damien Ferguson (1,796 yards and 22 touchdowns with five interceptions) ranks No. 1 nationally in touchdowns (23 total) and points scored (138) in statistical lists compiled by MaxPreps. Ferguson has the fifth-most passing yards among all United States quarterbacks tracked by the website. Only schools which keep their stats through MaxPreps, as the large majority in WNC do, are part of the lists. The Warriors rebounded from a three-game losing streak last Friday and C.J. Thompson (41 receptions for 631 yards and 12 touchdowns) set a WNC record for single-game touchdown catches (six) at Franklin. Other key pieces of the Erwin offense are Kealin Goode (27 receptions for 304 yards and three touchdowns), Isaiah Poore (344 receiving yards, 275 rushing yards and six combined touchdowns), Trey Martin (26 receptions for 367 yards and four touchdowns) and Bryan Anuel (13 receptions for 116 yards). Defensively, Chris McDonald averages 8.6 tackles per game, followed by Ethan Lunsford (4.8), Jackson Gouge (4.8) and Simeon Thompson (4.6). Reynolds and Nathan St. Onge (421 rushing yards, 297 passing yards and eight combined touchdowns) have won 10 straight MAC games and were undefeated in the league a year ago. Keyal Talbert (265 yards, six touchdowns) and Sean Jones (225 yards, two touchdowns) are other primary rushers, while Rmani Lynch (13 receptions for 166 yards and two touchdowns) and Talbert (11 receptions for 158 yards) are the main outlets for St. Onge and Alex Flinn (222 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions). Five Rockets have made 30 or more tackles – Frank Torress (65), Conor Sullivan (55), Charlie Lehman (45), Andrew McKay (32) and Chayce Plummer (30).
Pick: Reynolds by 1.
ROBERSON (4-1) at MCDOWELL (3-2), 7 p.m.
Last week: Roberson lost to Shelby Crest, 20-7; McDowell beat Owen, 13-3.
Last year: Roberson beat McDowell, 28-14.
Notes: No introductions necessary. McDowell first-year coach Andy Morgan was an assistant at Roberson from 2005 to 2014. Friday’s reunion is not only homecoming for the Titans and Ben Ballew (649 yards and four touchdowns with 10 interceptions), but a chance to beat the Rams for the very first time – the all-time series is skewed 9-0 in the Buncombe County school’s favor. Chase Justice (26 receptions for 277 yards and two touchdowns), Tyler Banks (12 receptions for 137 yards and Dakota Effler (12 receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown) have rewarded Ballew’s confidence in them. Leading rusher Terion Camp (238 yards, one touchdown) ran for his first score of the season last Friday. Matthew Moss (213 yards) is also a threat out of the backfield. Ishman Martino (7.0 tackles per game), Damon McNeely (6.8), Kaali Tobe (6.3), Adam Randolph (4.6) and Tyler Banks (4.4) stand out for a defense coming off arguably its best game yet. Roberson quarterback Ty Gossett (932 yards and five touchdowns with nine interceptions) is on the verge of a 1,000-yard season as a sophomore thanks to the hands of Barshia Young (14 receptions for 246 yards and two touchdowns), Micah Jenkins (13 receptions for 282 yards and one touchdown) and Bryson Case (12 receptions for 132 yards and one touchdown). Three tacklers are averaging double digits in that category for the Rams – Logan Wells (16.0 a game), Zach Myers (11.6) and Greg Johnston (10.2). Jordan McNeill (9.4), Seth Rowe (5.6) and Kai Anthony (5.0) are other names to keep an eye on.
Pick: Roberson by 7.
Western North Carolina Athletic Conference
PISGAH (4-0) at EAST HENDERSON (0-4)
Last week: Pisgah beat Madison, 28-0; East Henderson lost to Polk County, 27-13.
Last year: Pisgah beat East Henderson, 54-0.
Notes: Brett Chappell brought the good ole days to East Henderson, going 67-35 with four conference championships (2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012) in eight seasons. Pisgah’s fourth-year coach is now fully entrenched at a different school, and getting the same positive results. The Black Bears and Tanner Wike (455 passing yards, 277 rushing yards and 12 combined touchdowns) are 4-0 for the first time in a decade. Wike has yet to throw an interception. He and Trey Morgan (22 receptions for 364 yards and seven touchdowns) have formed one of the most effective quarterback-receiver combos in the WNCAC. Alabama recruit Michael Parrott (393 yards, two touchdowns) and Isaiah Fisher (183 yards, one touchdown) have kept defenses honest with their rushing. Jeff Albritton is averaging a team-high 8.0 tackles per game, followed by Tanner Lanning (7.3), Houston Rogers (6.8) and Riley James (4.5). East Henderson’s Preston Owens threw for 136 yards with touchdowns to Beau Shealy (76 yards) and Luke McCall (18) last Friday.
Pick: Pisgah by 21.
TUSCOLA (4-0) at SMOKY MOUNTAIN (4-0)
Last week: Tuscola beat Swain County, 49-6; Smoky Mountain beat Cherokee, 52-18.
Last year: Tuscola beat Smoky Mountain, 56-28.
Notes: Batten down the hatches for one of the biggest football games Sylva has hosted in quite some time. Smoky Mountain and Matthew Ridley (771 yards, seven touchdowns) are off to their best start in 18 years. And this is the same football program that hasn’t tasted a winning season since 1999. The Mustangs and Cole Hooper (701 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions) are well on their way to righting that wrong. Austin Baumgarner (13 receptions for 198 yards and two touchdowns) and Connor Moore (11 receptions for 199 yards and one touchdown) have been the most consistent receiving threats for Hooper. Kyle Bradley (7.5 tackles per game) and Michael Ashe (6.8) head up the defense. Tuscola hasn’t been in this position for a while either – the Mountaineers’ last 4-0 start occurred in 2008. Their offense is averaging 323.5 rushing yards and 52.5 points per game with weapons like Grayson Perkins (166 passing yards, 143 rushing yards and seven combined touchdowns), Caleb Ferguson (440 rushing yards, 120 receiving yards and 17 combined touchdowns), Brent Turner (306 yards, two touchdowns), Roman Jenkins (230 rushing yards) and Bailee Ewart (127 yards, one touchdown). Standouts on the other side of the ball are Taylor Austin (8.3 tackles per game), Joe Napert (8.0), Ferguson (7.0), Jeremy Jacobs (7.0), John Medford (6.3) and Dylan Worley (6.0). First-year Smoky Mountain coach Chris Brookshire is a 1988 Tuscola graduate.
Pick: Tuscola by 7.
NORTH HENDERSON (2-2) at WEST HENDERSON (2-2)
Last week: North Henderson did not play; West Henderson lost to Mountain Heritage, 62-48.
Last year: West Henderson beat North Henderson, 14-0.
Notes: Point taken. West Henderson and Peyton Frisbee (517 yards, eight touchdowns) went toe-to-toe with undefeated Mountain Heritage last Friday and gave the No. 1 team in the Citizen-Times Best of the West rankings all it could handle. Frisbee’s rushing yardage (308 yards) and touchdowns (six) were both season-highs for the senior who gets his handoffs from Brandon Whitaker (301 rushing yards, 166 passing yards and four combined touchdowns). Defensively, the Falcons get much of their production from Devin Stepp (7.8 tackles per game), Trenton Gasperson (6.8), Jake Ogren (6.5), Elijah Nickell (5.8), Ricky McKenzie (5.3) and Jason Wallace (5.0). North Henderson and Kalin Ensley (529 passing yards, 157 rushing yards and five combined touchdowns) have not played since a 35-10 home loss to Hendersonville on Sept. 9. Ensley has completed 49 passes, and roughly 63 percent of them have been caught by Darren Lammons (31 receptions for 381 yards and three touchdowns). The defense has been shored up by Austin Vanhoy (7.5 tackles per game), Mikey Smithers (5.8) and Kingston Thomas (4.0). West Henderson holds a 37-18 edge in this all-time series
Pick: West Henderson by 7.
BREVARD (3-1) at FRANKLIN (2-2)
Last week: Brevard beat Enka, 52-20; Franklin lost to Erwin, 57-34.
Last year: Franklin beat Brevard, 35-13.
Notes: Three years, one conference loss. Franklin and Brock Kloeppel (608 yards, 12 touchdowns) are still the standard in WNCAC football until someone dethrones the three-time defending champs. Kloeppel and Grant Stiles (204 yards, two touchdowns) bring balance to an offense run by Andrew Moore (601 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions). Bailey Watts (18 receptions for 224 yards) and Jordin Nugent (18 receptions for 195 yards) have the same number of catches. Leading tacklers for the Panthers are David Ramey (5.3 a game), Dillon Daves (4.8), Byron Shields (4.5), Stiles (4.3) and Logan Tallent (4.3). Brevard and Ethan Shook (14.3 tackles per game) are hitting the road Friday, one week after their first home win since 2013. Tanner Ellenberger (660 passing yards, 228 rushing yards and 13 combined touchdowns) had a hand in three touchdowns versus Enka. Tanner Pettit (308 yards, three touchdowns), Ari Williams (15 receptions for 309 yards and five touchdowns) and Lane Pressley (10 receptions for 214 yards and three touchdowns) are other weapons for the Blue Devils offense. Pettit (8.5 tackles a game), Kyle Williams (8.0) and Estevian Benjamin (7.3) are complementary pieces to Shook on defense.
Pick: Franklin by 7.
Western Highlands Conference
AVERY COUNTY (2-3) at OWEN (1-3)
Last week: Avery County beat North Wilkes, 28-18; Owen lost to McDowell, 13-3.
Last year: Owen beat Avery County, 49-6.
Notes: No time is better than now for a winning streak in Newland. Christian Hicks (368 passing yards, 124 rushing yards and eight combined touchdowns) and Avery County have all the momentum they need for conference play after back-to-back wins. Hicks threw a pair of touchdown passes to Brett Smith (22 receptions for 280 yards and five touchdowns) last Friday, while Sam McCollum (192 yards, one touchdown) ran for 104 yards on 13 carries. Andy Dominguez (14 receptions for 142 yards) also made his second touchdown grab of the year. Steven Sanchez (243 yards, two touchdowns) not only leads the team in rushing, but tackles (7.8), too, along with Blake Williams (7.8). Three other players average five or more tackles – Cole Singleton (5.5), Josh McClellan (5.0) and Timothy Tolley (5.0). Last year’s win over Avery County was the only one for Owen. The Warhorses got a 25-yard field goal from Jacob Robinson early last Friday, but then nothing more. Kendrick Weaver (395 yards and three touchdowns with four interceptions) is putting up close to 100 yards per game thanks to the hands of Tyler Sexton (11 receptions for 204 yards) and Waleed Kahlil (eight receptions for 68 yards). The defense takes its cues from Alex Huntsinger (5.5 tackles per game), Jadon Watson (5.5), Sexton (5.3), Cyrus Hooper (5.0) and Antonio McDowell (5.0).
Pick: Avery County by 3.
POLK COUNTY (2-3) at MADISON (3-2)
Last week: Polk County beat East Henderson, 27-13; Madison lost to Pisgah, 28-0.
Last year: Polk County beat Madison, 50-7.
Notes: When a new coach brings in a new system, certain players seize the opportunities. Certain players like Madison senior Colby Edwards (934 passing yards, 305 rushing yards and 14 combined touchdowns). The Patriots and Derek Gonzalez (589 yards, four touchdowns) were shut out last Friday, but still have a winning record under first-year coach Ben Rhodarmer. Dawson Coates (28 receptions for 286 yards and four touchdowns) and Elan Littrell (27 reception for 301 yards and one touchdown) have combined to make 55 catches. The most active tacklers have been Keegan Foley (10.4 per game), Logan Roberts (9.4), Clark Gray (8.6) and Austin Shelton (7.4). Polk County junior Dillon Overholt (436 rushing yards, 395 passing yards and nine combined touchdowns) continues to show how dynamic he can be. Part of Overholt’s 146 yards across the ground a week ago were a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs. He also made an interception. Austin Wilson and Joshua Chupp both put up a team-high 6.2 tackles a game.
Pick: Madison by 1.
HENDERSONVILLE (3-2) at MOUNTAIN HERITAGE (5-0)
Last week: Hendersonville lost to Reynolds, 40-17; Mountain Heritage beat West Henderson, 62-48.
Last year: Hendersonville beat Mountain Heritage, 48-44.
Notes: Even though a loss was certain, Hendersonville’s student section gleefully celebrated a couple fourth-quarter touchdowns last Friday. They know there are plenty more to come with Alex Wiliford (1,039 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions) and fellow junior Tykel Landrum (34 receptions for 615 yards and five touchdowns) working in unison. Williford is a first-time member of the 1,000-yard club who has other high-value targets in Leon Cooks (17 receptions for 253 yards and three touchdowns) and Demetrius Smith (16 receptions for 135 yards and one touchdown). Rushing-wise, Ty’rese Hunt (277 yards, five touchdowns) has done much of the damage and the defense follows the lead of Blaine Sharpe (7.4 tackles a game), Taerek Daniel (7.3), Samuel Lucas (6.8), Shaq Rospel (6.5), Landrum (6.4) and Shawn Pearce (6.2). Three teams split last year’s WHC championship (Hendersonville, Mitchell and Mountain Heritage) and the Bearcats were the only squad to beat the Cougars and Adam Shuford (16.0 tackles a game) in league play. Trey Robinson (685 rushing yards, 542 passing yards and 14 combined touchdowns) continues to progress towards a 1,000-yard season in multiple offensive categories for the second straight year. Junior Denton (619 yards, seven touchdowns), Justin Keener (281 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Cole Burleson (170 yards, four touchdowns) are other cogs in a rushing attack that churns out 392.6 yards per game. Along with Shuford, key players on defense include Corey Presnell (11.6 tackles per game), Dathan Robinson (10.6), Kane McCandless (10.6) and Seth Randolph (9.2). The Cougars haven’t lost a home game in the WHC since 2013.
Pick: Mountain Heritage by 10.
Smoky Mountain Conference
CHEROKEE (3-2) at MURPHY (4-1)
Last week: Cherokee lost to Smoky Mountain, 52-18; Murphy beat Gilmer (Ga.), 27-6.
Last year: Murphy beat Cherokee, 27-6.
Notes: Someone has to step up in a down year for the Smoky Mountain Conference. Murphy’s defense may be that group. The Bulldogs and Adam Powell (7.8 tackles per game), have only allowed six points in their last three games. Cory Farmer (7.2), Slade McTaggart (6.6), Cody Cantrell (6.2) and Hunter Shope (4.8) have been other stalwarts. Joey Curry (652 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions), Kadrian McRae (230 yards, five touchdowns) and Colton Posey (18 receptions for 294 yards and four touchdowns) have made the most of the support with their offense. Sophomore K.J. Allen (120 yards, four touchdowns) has run for a pair of touchdowns each of the past two weeks. Cherokee’s leading rusher, Isaiah Evans (339 yards, six touchdowns) has been limited by an injury in recent weeks, which has put more of an onus on Tye Mintz (760 passing yards, 256 rushing yards and 112 combined touchdowns) and receivers like Shane Swimmer (14 receptions for 140 yards), Holden Straughan (13 receptions for 139 yards and one touchdown) and Anthony Toineeta (12 receptions for 172 yards and four touchdowns). Toineeta (43) and Straughan (42) rank first and second, respectively in tackles.
Pick: Murphy by 14.
ROBBINSVILLE (1-3) at ANDREWS (1-4)
Last week: Robbinsville beat Rabun Gap (Ga.), 29-3; Andrews lost to Fannin County (Ga.), 42-0.
Last year: Robbinsville beat Andrews, 46-12.
Notes: Robbinsville and Colby Hemphill (375 yards, five touchdowns) were making the wrong kind of history. And now the program’s first 0-3 start in a decade is just that – history. Hemphill is giving the Black Knights 5.9 yards per carry, but it was four other individuals who ran for touchdowns last Friday, including quarterback Alex Bridges (234 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions). Other big contributors for the offense are Ian Wiggins (285 yards) and Chandler Jumper (nine receptions for 173 yards and one touchdown). The defense didn’t surrender a touchdown for the first time this season a week ago behind Elijah Wachacha (7.8 tackles a game), Landon Orr (6.5), Issiah Bradley (5.5) and Jumper (5.0). They will be up against an Andrews offense that has only scored 27 points the past three weeks. If the Wildcats can jump-start things, they will likely do it with Matt Barton (231 yards and 1 touchdown with two interceptions), Andrew Horton (197 yards) and Kylan Thompson (six receptions for 114 yards and one touchdown). Leading rusher Taylor Parker (277 yards, three touchdowns) has not been in the lineup since Sept. 2. Robbinsville leads the overall series between these two teams, 78-20-1.
Pick: Robbinsville by 7.
ROSMAN (1-3) at HAYESVILLE (0-4)
Last week: Rosman beat Trinity Christian (Tenn.) 14-7; Hayesville did not play.
Last year: Rosman beat Hayesville, 57-0.
Notes: Lots of stuff falls on Tanner Whitman as the only former All-SMC player for Rosman. The senior’s shoulders were plenty broad enough to carry the Tigers to their first win last Friday. Whitman (282 yards, three touchdowns) ran the ball 25 times for 117 yards and scored a touchdown, as did Jonathan Holliday (146 yards, three touchdowns). The biggest yardage for the Rosman offense has come with Luke Stewart (275 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions) chucking the ball around to receivers such as Harper Reese (eight receptions for 82 yards). Reese also averages 4.5 tackles per game, which is third to only Neil Tesnow (6.0) and Will Partin (4.8). Hayesville and Alan Gillis (273 rushing yards, 132 passing yards and four combined touchdowns) have not played since a 39-20 home loss to Enka on Sept. 9. Gillis has shared duties at quarterback with Kyle Rhinehardt (239 yards and one touchdown with seven interceptions) and their top receiver is Brian Smith (11 receptions for 73 yards). Thomas Cothren sets the tone for the defense with 7.0 tackles a game along with Rhinehardt (5.0).
Pick: Rosman by 1.
WINSTON-SALEM CARVER (1-4) at ASHEVILLE (1-3)
Last week: Carver beat Statesville, 27-7; Asheville did not play.
Last year: Asheville beat Carver, 20-12.
Notes: Bye weeks are supposed to be peaceful and quiet. Not with a college prospect like Andrew Leota in Asheville High’s locker room. Leota has fielded his second and third ACC scholarship offers (from Tobacco Road rivals Duke and North Carolina) since the last time his team touched the field (a 56-28 loss at Southern Lee on Sept. 9). Leota is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound defensive lineman who is averaging 8.0 tackles per game. Virginia Tech previously offered the Cougars junior back in July. Devon Davidson (751 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions) is one big game away from the second 1,000-yard season of his career with the help of Makaius Brewer (27 receptions for 316 yards and two touchdowns), DeAndre Gaskin (11 receptions for 133 yards) and Dana Campbell (10 receptions for 88 yards). Ahmad Shivers has rushed for a team-high 305 yards and five touchdowns, while the defense is powered by Taquandre Bates (10.3 tackles per game), Micah Robertson (9.8), Taevon Edgerton (8.0), Leota and Taejan Griffin (6.8). Carver is coached by former NFL wide receiver Germane Crowell. He was a second-round pick in the 1998 draft and played five seasons for the Detroit Lions.
Pick: Asheville by 7.
CHRIST SCHOOL (3-1) at RABUN GAP, Ga. (1-3), 4:30 p.m.
Last week: Christ School beat Northside Christian, 56-6; Rabun Gap lost to Robbinsville, 29-3.
Last year: Christ School beat Rabun Gap, 21-16.
Notes: Just like they Drew it up. Christ School senior Drew Johnson (1,026 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions) needed just four games to become a 1,000-yard passer for the second time in his career. Johnson now has 3,743 yards to his name in the past two seasons. At the moment, the Spartanburg, S.C., signal-caller is completing exactly 75 percent of his attempts to a collection of receivers which includes Keyvaun Cobb (29 receptions for 277 yards and four touchdowns), Jared Letman-Gash (14 receptions for 201 yards and seven touchdowns), Kevin Snyder (12 receptions for 95 yards), Gabe Blevins (11 receptions for 174 yards and one touchdown) and Kokayi Cobb (10 receptions for 91 yards). Seth Griswold (7.8 tackles per game) and the defense have held each of their past two opponents – Robbinsville and Northside Christian – to single digits. Other big contributors on that side of the ball are Carson Jones (5.5 tackles a game), Sage Holley (5.3), Banks Campbell (4.8), Ross Oakley (4.3) and Tyler Redmond (4.3). Redmond has snared a team-high two interceptions. Rabun Gap’s coach is a familiar face – Dale Earnhardt was 33-37 in seven seasons at Asheville School before stepping down in 2007.
Pick: Christ School by 28.
ASHEVILLE SCHOOL (3-0) at STATESVILLE CHRISTIAN (5-0), 7 p.m.
Last week: Asheville School beat Camden Military (S.C.), 28-6; Statesville Christian beat Winston-Salem Prep, 42-0.
Last year: Asheville School beat Statesville Christian, 17-14.
Notes: Twenty other players were on the field at any given moment. But last Friday it was like Asheville School’s Ahmad Galimore and Rashad Morrison were playing a two-man game of catch. Galimore (322 yards and six touchdowns with one interception) put four balls in the air that turned into touchdowns and Morrison (10 receptions for 145 yards and five touchdowns) was on the other end each time. The Blues and Fisher Howard (212 yards, two touchdowns) are 3-0 for the first time since 2011. Chris Amoroso and Paul Hill share the team lead in tackles (7.3 per game), followed by J.P. Schill (5.3) and Howard (4.7). They will have to contend with Statesville Christian playmakers like Canaan Cox (774 rushing yards, 168 receiving yards and 10 combined touchdowns), Brennan Settle (652 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception) and Deshon Holmes (eight receptions for 161 yards).
Pick: Statesville Christian by 3.