Swain County is pretty good anywhere.
But at home? Well, that’s where the defending NCHSAA 1-AA champions are great.
The Maroon Devils have won 20 consecutive football games at Memorial Stadium/Deitz Field heading into tonight’s 1-AA Western Regional championship game against Monroe (11-3). Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“(Homefield advantage) is something we’ve worked all season for and something we’re excited about,” Swain County coach Neil Blankenship said.
“Anytime you play at here at Swain County, it’s special. We have such a good group of fans. They play such a big part in the game. You can see it in the way our kids play.”
The Maroon Devils and junior Raymius Smith (2,270 yards and 37 touchdowns with seven interceptions) may need every advantage they can get this evening.
Smith’s counterpart at Monroe, Quay Chambers (1,263 passing yards, 1,080 rushing yards, 24 combined touchdowns), is a senior who has committed to Duke.
The same ACC school has made an early scholarship offer to junior running back Treshun Wynn (541 yards, 12 touchdowns).
The Rocky River Conference champion Redhawks have outscored their three playoff opponents, 183-31.
“They’re athletic. They’ve got some great athletes all over the field,” Blankenship said. “Sometimes you get teams who have just one who is unreal. But they’ve got a lot. We’ve got our hands full, but I think our kids are up for challenge. They’re excited about it.”
Swain County’s defensive starters only allowed three points in last week’s 55-24 win over Western Highlands Conference champion Hendersonville.
That unit is led by Corbin Panther (55 tackles, 14 for a loss), Payton Parker (46), Jacob Wildcatt (54, 19.5 for a loss), Luis Saeli (48), Nathan Sellers (46.5) and Greg Tisho (44).
Tisho (50 receptions for 1,119 yards and 17 touchdowns) is also a 1,000-yard receiver for Smith as is fellow senior Matthew Maennle (60 receptions for 1,150 yards and 21 touchdowns).
A third senior, Garrett Lane (1,062 yards, 19 touchdowns), went over 1,000 yards in rushing last Friday.
The Maroon Devils have won a Western North Carolina-best 26 straight games, and their last home loss occurred in 2010 — a 25-0 Smoky Mountain Conference defeat at the hands of Robbinsville.
Smith and the rest of the players are expecting a big crowd on Black Friday.
“It’s going to be interesting to see the atmosphere,” Smith said. “Everybody is congratulating us and saying they are going to be there (tonight).”