Naturally, the expectation at Reynolds is that there’s money to be made with a big rival coming over for tonight’s home regular-season finale.
It will be an even richer experience if the Rockets (6-2, 3-1) can beat Roberson (8-0, 4-0).
Dalton Stadium should be packed for a game that will in all likelihood determine the Mountain Athletic Conference 4-A championship.
Kickoff is set for 7:30.
“If we play well, then I feel like it’s going to be the game everybody wants to see,” Reynolds coach Shane Laws said.
“This is the game you want to play in if you’re a high school player. You work extremely hard year-round to have opportunities like we’re going to have (tonight).
“And I’m proud that we’ve given ourselves an opportunity. There’s a ton of teams around the state that don’t get to play in a game for a conference championship. It’s going to be big.”
Both of the Buncombe County teams have only two games left before next month’s NCHSAA playoffs. But their MAC 4-A title scenarios are different.
Shrine Bowl quarterback Noah Suber (1,063 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions) and the Rams are the division’s defending champions. With a win tonight, they would repeat, and most importantly, clinch the top 4-A seed for the playoffs.
Levi Ledford (1,334 yards and eight touchdowns with six interceptions) and the Rockets need to win this evening and would then have to take care of business next week at winless North Buncombe (0-9, 0-4).
Ledford fed the ball to Rockets sophomore Jave Jones (902 yards, 17 touchdowns), who ran for all three touchdowns in last Friday’s 21-13 win at McDowell. As a freshman, Jones was mostly a receiver for Reynolds.
Ledford has scored 19 total touchdowns and spread the ball around throughout to his first 1,000-yard passing season to a receiving corps that includes Caelan Rhinehardt (35 receptions for 427 yards and four touchdowns), C.J. Allen (21 receptions for 244 yards), Jacob Cagle (18 receptions for 225 yards and one touchdown) and Jones (18 receptions for 224 yards and two touchdowns).
John Nick Setterlind (14.1), Justin St. Onge (13.0), Tavien Morgan (11.5) and Lavell Dixon (10.7) are all averaging more than 10 tackles a game for the defense.
Reynolds has won four of the last five games in this series and is 34-16-1 all-time against Roberson.
The Rams took last year’s game in Skyland, 27-10, and have been the No. 1 team in all nine weeks of the Citizen-Times Best of the West rankings.
“They’re good, really good,” Laws said.
“Offensively, they’re running the spread, and pretty much everything goes through Noah. But if you get overly concerned with him, they’ve got a whole lot of other weapons that can hurt you.
“Defensively, they’re very sound, and they do their job well. They’re just big everywhere, and we’re going to have to be able to control their front on both sides if we want to win this game.”
This year’s Roberson team is no stranger to tough road games — the Rams have won at Shelby Crest, Erwin, Franklin and McDowell.
Suber went over the 1,000-yard mark in passing in last Friday’s 45-21 home win over Asheville High and will be joined in the Shrine Bowl by Rams lineman Jeff DeLeon, who is the latest Citizen-Times/Western North Carolina Player of the Week.
Malik Griffin (893 yards, 15 touchdowns) is the top rusher and many of Suber’s passes have gone to Cody Moore (19 receptions for 395 yards and three touchdowns), Alex Talley (18 receptions for 257 yards and two touchdowns) and Zach Dollinger (13 receptions for 119 yards and one touchdown).
On the other side of the ball, Roberson is powered by Bill Cecil and Mahogany Suber, who are each making 9.6 tackles a game.
“(Reynolds) is a good football team, and they’re playing well right now,” Rams coach Jim Beatty said. “Defensively, it’s one of the best fronts we’ve faced since Crest. And offensively, they do what they do really well. The execution is there on both sides.”
Roberson is off to its best start since 2004, and Beatty knows that tonight’s environment will be special for both teams.
“It’s is a huge game with implications for both of us,” Beatty said.
“Both of us started out this season with the same goal. We both wanted to win this conference and now it’s down to just the two of us for the No. 1 seed. Even if we weren’t any good, there would be a huge crowd to watch these teams play.”