Defense was an issue for Pisgah last football season, and that’s putting it mildly.
Every opponent the Haywood County school faced during an uncharacteristic 0-5 start scored 40 or more points. The Black Bears (1-1) are a year older and a year better, with the latest evidence being Friday’s 36-16 win at Enka.
Pisgah starters held Enka (0-2) to three points, allowing Josh Noland and the offense to do more than enough. Noland rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns, while Dakota King returned from a knee injury to gain a team-high 98 yards across the ground. Garrett Holland ran for the Black Bears’ other offensive touchdown (2 yards) at the 4:17 mark of the third quarter, and Nathan Higdon hit three field goals (37, 29 and 22 yards).
Dakota Cowan returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown to help Pisgah outscore Enka, 27-0, in a dominant third quarter. Thirteen of the Jets’ 19 points came in the game’s final 5 minutes and 11 seconds.
“I have to start with us, defensively,” Black Bears coach David Pressley said. “We haven’t played that well in a while. We were really able to hold them, and our kids on defense set the tempo. We played so much better as the night wore on.”
McDowell coach Carson Gowan preaches to his team to never get too emotionally high after a win or too low after a loss.
“We’ve lived through some tough times in the past, and reality is always somewhere in the middle of a win or a loss,” Gowan said.
Right now, the Titans only have to safeguard against feeling too good about their first 2-0 start since 2000.
Malique O’Neil was a workhorse Friday with 36 carries for 245 yards and a touchdown, while Trey Anderson added 122 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 28-7 win over visiting East Rutherford.
Anderson was pressed into duty after cramps sidelined O’Neil.
McDowell’s defense was up to the task as well against an opponent who had beaten the Titans in their last five meetings. Former All-Mountain Athletic Conference defenders Jared Helms and John Gowan and the rest of the defense held the Cavaliers (0-2) to 184 yards.
“To be 2-0 right now and playing physical like we are, it’s just a testament to the players and our assistant coaches,” Carson Gowan said.
McDowell is only one win from matching its total (three) from last season. The Titans were winless in 2009 and 2010.
Bearcats trying to stay humble
Hendersonville senior Grant Rivers cannot wait for football practice Monday.
The Bearcats quarterback said his undefeated team will need some humble pie, and he plans to be the one cutting the pieces.
Rivers passed for a game-high 208 yards and ran for a 14-yard touchdown in Friday night’s 41-30 win over visiting Asheville High. It was the first regular-season loss for the seven-time defending Mountain Athletic Conference champion Cougars (1-1) since 2010.
And for Rivers, it reinforced the fact that his 2-0 team can challenge for the Western Highlands Conference championship and possibly more.
“What Friday really told me is that we can make a deep run,” Rivers said. “It’s been a long drought here at Hendersonville without a state championship, and we’d like to be the team to change that. But what I want to do on Monday is just emphasize to everyone on our team that we need to stay humble. Just because we beat Asheville doesn’t mean the season is over. We have to come out and play every Friday.”