ERWIN (5-3, 1-3) at NORTH BUNCOMBE (0-8, 0-3)
Last week: Erwin lost to Roberson, 28-21; North Buncombe lost to St. Stephens, 20-10.
Last year: Erwin beat North Buncombe, 35-12.
Notes: Erwin coach Mike Sexton has been adamant that moral victories will not suffice. Even though an injury-plagued Warriors defense led by Darius Lytle (56.5 tackles) and Josh McDevitt (50.5) performed admirably against undefeated Roberson last Friday, which was the unit’s first game without injured linebacker Alfredo Maldonado (knee). Austin Brown (1,674 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions) continues to top WNC in passing, and the same can be said for fellow junior Jonathan Allen (58 receptions for 720 yards and eight touchdowns) in terms of receiving. Leading rusher Kelman Simpson (960 yards, 11 touchdowns) returned from a knee injury a week ago to edge closer to his first 1,000-yard season. North Buncombe’s Caleb Gwaltney is tied for third in team tackles (38) with Cameron Taylor behind Shane Hawkins (40.5) and Tyler Shelton (52). Gwaltney’s 32-yard run was the only touchdown scored by the Black Hawks a week ago.
Pick: Erwin by 21.
REYNOLDS (5-2, 2-1) at MCDOWELL (6-2, 2-2)
Last week: Reynolds beat Enka, 35-7; McDowell lost to Asheville, 28-21.
Last year: Reynolds beat McDowell, 17-14.
Notes: Spread you out or run you over? One of two polar-opposite approaches to offense will prevail tonight. Rockets junior Levi Ledford (1,191 yards and eight touchdowns with six interceptions) continues to enjoy the best season of his varsity career. His favorite receiving targets out of the spread formation are Caelon Rhinehart (33 receptions for 395 yards and four touchdowns) and C.J. Allen (21 receptions for 244 yards). Jave Jones (813 yards, 14 touchdowns) already has more yards than any Reynolds back gained in 2011. McDowell and its two-headed rushing monster of Malique O’Neil (916 yards, seven touchdowns) and Trey Anderson (804 yards, eight touchdowns) will try to collect their first victory over Reynolds since 1995. The Titans ran 54 times for 348 yards against another spread-offense MAC team (Erwin) two weeks ago and let John Gowan (57 tackles) and their defense do the rest.
Pick: Reynolds by 7.
EAST HENDERSON (7-1, 4-0) at FRANKLIN (6-2, 4-0)
Last week: East Henderson beat Smoky Mountain, 50-20; Franklin beat North Henderson, 44-6.
Last year: Franklin beat East Henderson, 28-21 and 56-28.
Notes: Technically, tonight is not a winner-take-all game for the WNCAC championship. But technically, the rest of the 2-A/3-A league is a combined 10-38. Franklin junior Marquel Manning (1,397 yards, 19 touchdowns) has continued to run roughshod and is now No. 10 among career rushers at the Macon County school with 1,969 yards. Jeremiah Young (7.1 tackles per game) and the Panthers will try to slow down a East Henderson offense averaging 51.4 points a game with senior quarterback Seth Owen (1,420 yards and 16 touchdowns with two interceptions) at the controls. Owen had directed most of his passes to Steffon Hill (37 receptions for 658 yards and six touchdowns) and Tyler Sexton (21 receptions for 490 yards and eight touchdowns). Defensively, the Eagles to look out for are Jay Spellmon (39.5 tackles) and Walker Lanning (39). East Henderson is 1-4 against Franklin since the present version of the WNCAC was formed in 2009.
Pick: East Henderson by 1.
BREVARD (0-8, 0-4) at SMOKY MOUNTAIN (2-6, 2-2)
Last week: Brevard lost to West Henderson, 34-24; Smoky Mountain lost to East Henderson, 50-20.
Last year: Smoky Mountain beat Brevard, 21-14.
Notes: For a change, winless Brevard’s glass was half full last Friday. Anthony Benjamin’s two early scoring runs (3 and 8 yards) helped stake the Blue Devils to a 17-14 halftime lead over West Henderson. Smoky Mountain’s other two WNCAC wins (Tuscola and West Henderson) have both come at home. The Mustangs can make it three tonight in Sylva if they get another big game from junior Chace Morgan. He rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns a week ago against WNCAC preseason favorite East Henderson.
Pick: Smoky Mountain by 1.
NORTH HENDERSON (1-7, 1-3) at PISGAH (2-6, 1-3)
Last week: North Henderson lost to Franklin, 44-6; Pisgah lost to Tuscola, 24-21.
Last year: Pisgah beat North Henderson, 47-35.
Notes: Ready, set, go! Homecoming night in Canton seems like the perfect time for Josh Noland (653 passing yards, 378 rushing yards, 15 combined touchdowns) and Pisgah to start a playoff push. The Black Bears have three remaining games against fellow 2-A teams in the WNCAC (Brevard, North Henderson and Smoky Mountain) with a combined record of 3-21. Noland and McKinley Brown (378 yards and four touchdowns) both got time at quarterback last Friday. The Black Bears and Trevor Bailey (38.5 tackles) have won 11 all meetings since these two schools began playing again in 2001. North Henderson has been limited to just 19 total points the past three weeks.
Pick: Pisgah by 10.
WEST HENDERSON (2-6, 1-3) at TUSCOLA (3-5, 3-1)
Last week: West Henderson lost to Brevard, 34-24; Tuscola beat Pisgah, 24-21.
Last year: Tuscola beat West Henderson, 49-14.
Notes: Welcome to the big time, Bryce Myers. The Tuscola sophomore is the latest Citizen-Times WNC Player of the Week after rushing for a team-high 65 yards and burning Pisgah for a game-changing 93-yard kickoff return last Friday. He was also selected as the Great American Rivalry Series’ most valuable player for that game. Now the Mountaineers and top tackler Levi Duffield (69.5 tackles) will go for their fourth straight win tonight. West Henderson quarterback Brandon Letchworth (1,011 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions) became the fourth Henderson County quarterback to reach 1,000 yards last Friday. When the senior throws, his most likely outlets are Blake Whitaker (36 receptions for 680 yards and six touchdowns) and Mitchell Pace (11 receptions for 98 yards). Drew Turner (84 tackles) continues to lead the way for the defense.
Pick: Tuscola by 7.
HENDERSONVILLE (7-1, 4-0) at OWEN (4-4, 3-1)
Last week: Hendersonville beat Mitchell, 56-14; Owen lost to Madison, 14-7.
Last year: Hendersonville beat Owen, 41-17.
Notes: Crown him. Hendersonville senior Desean Jackson (1,196 yards, 17 touchdowns) became the third WNC running back to reach the 1,000-yard mark last Friday. And he also joined Enka’s Chris Carver in a social respect — both were named homecoming king. Grant Rivers (1,404 passing yards and 14 touchdowns with four interceptions) and the Bearcats have won their first four WHC games by an average of 29.8 points. Fellow senior D.J. Wilson (25 receptions for 694 yards and 10 touchdowns) is the only WNC receiver with double-digit touchdowns and was named to the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas on Wednesday. Owen sophomore Jager Gardner (989, eight touchdowns) should achieve his first 1,000-yard season tonight.
Pick: Hendersonville by 10.
MADISON (7-1, 3-1) at AVERY COUNTY (2-6, 0-4)
Last week: Madison beat Owen, 14-7; Avery County lost to Polk County, 28-7.
Last year: Avery County beat Madison, 25-14.
Notes: Feel-good story? No, make it feel-good season. Madison and Tyler Rogers (994 yards and nine touchdowns with six interceptions) clinched their first winning season in more than a decade last Friday. Rogers is on the verge of his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and Cole Cuthbertson (24 receptions for 504 yards and five touchdowns) is responsible for more than half his yards. Tyler Hoffman (741 yards, six touchdowns) has been the Patriots’ best ground threat. Deryck Hilemon (66 tackles), Derrick English (50.5), Daniel Nash (47.5) and the rest of the Madison defense have held five opponents to single-digits in scoring. Avery County has dropped six consecutive games after a promising 2-0 start.
Pick: Madison by 14.
MOUNTAIN HERITAGE (2-5, 1-3) at MITCHELL (1-7, 0-4)
Last week: Mountain Heritage beat Thomas Jefferson, 54-36; Mitchell lost to Hendersonville, 56-14.
Last year: Mitchell beat Mountain Heritage, 31-28.
Notes: The coach’s son is catching onto this quarterback thing quick. Mountain Heritage junior Trevor Robinson (1,019 yards and 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions) became one of the latest WNC players at that position to reach 1,000 yards last Friday. Robinson is the son of Cougars coach Joey Robinson and ranks second in team rushing (504 yards, eight touchdowns) to Lucas King (529 yards, seven touchdowns). King (23 receptions for 257 yards and three touchdowns) has also been Robinson’s favorite receiver. Dalton Beaver has been a breakout star for the Mitchell defense with more than twice as many tackles (44.5) as any other Mountaineers player.
Pick: Mountain Heritage by 3.
POLK COUNTY (6-2, 3-1) at THOMAS JEFFERSON (6-2, 2-2)
Last week: Polk County beat Avery County, 28-7; Thomas Jefferson lost to Mountain Heritage, 54-36.
Last year: Polk County beat Thomas Jefferson, 48-27.
Notes: Some things never change about the fall season — cooler temperatures, falling leaves and Polk County in contention for a WHC championship. Sure enough, the Wolverines and Alec Philpott (851 passing yards, 792 rushing yards, 21 combined touchdowns) are quietly lurking in this year’s race after their third consecutive win. Last Friday was more of the usual from Philpott, who had more than 100 yards passing and rushing. Coleman Bradley (78 tackles) and Lucas Williams (74) are the stalwarts for the Polk County defense.
Pick: Polk County by 7.
CHEROKEE (2-5, 0-3) at ROSMAN (3-5, 1-3)
Last week: Cherokee lost to Swain County, 61-8; Rosman lost to Robbinsville, 33-14.
Last year: Rosman beat Cherokee, 50-32.
Notes: Tick tock. Tick tock. There’s still time for Transylvania County’s smallest school to do something special. Rosman and Duran Scruggs (873 yards, 12 touchdowns) can inch a step closer to their first winning season since 2001 with a victory at home tonight. Scruggs leads the SMC in rushing as a quarterback. Christian Davis has made a team-high 38.5 tackles, with 33 of them solo. Cherokee remains winless in the SMC since 2009, a streak that stands at 16 games.
Pick: Rosman by 14.
ROBBINSVILLE (5-3, 2-2) at HAYESVILLE (3-4, 2-1)
Last week: Robbinsville beat Rosman, 33-14; Hayesville did not play.
Last year: Robbinsville beat Hayesville, 27-20.
Notes: Five wins will never constitute an average season at Robbinsville, a school with 12 state championships. But the Black Knights and Dakota Crisp (691 yards and six touchdowns with six interceptions) have already matched their total victories from the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Crisp hands off to three backs with 300 or more yards — Austin Hill (774 yards, seven touchdowns), Cruz Galavis (397 yards, three touchdowns) and Skyler Matheson (305 yards, five touchdowns). Spencer McCoy (87), Skyler Matheson (62) and Coy Jordan (51) have made more than 50 tackles. Tonight is the first game for Hayesville since four unidentified players were ejected from a 38-7 road loss at Swain County on Sept. 28. None of those four Yellow Jackets will be eligible to suit up tonight.
Pick: Robbinsville by 14.
SWAIN COUNTY (8-0, 3-0) at ANDREWS (2-6, 0-3)
Last week: Swain County beat Cherokee, 61-8; Andrews lost to Murphy, 49-25.
Last year: Swain County beat Andrews, 42-7.
Notes: Swain County senior Matthew Maennle has yet to meet a school receiving record that he can’t break. As of last Friday, the Maroon Devils star has set marks for all-time receptions (103), yards (1,912) and touchdowns (21). Of course, it takes a quarterback to make it all happen, and Raymius Smith (1,332 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions) leads the SMC in passing. Greg Tisho has amassed the most yardage of any WNC receiver (779) and recently went over the 2,000-mark for his career. The Maroon Devils received every first-place vote in this week’s NCHSAA 1-A polls published by The Associated Press and NCPreps.com. They have won a school-record 20 straight games.
Pick: Swain County by 21.
ASHEVILLE SCHOOL (2-4) at ENKA (4-4), 4 p.m.
Last week: Asheville School beat Rabun Gap (Ga.), 47-38; Enka lost to Reynolds, 35-7.
Last year: Asheville School beat Enka, 28-21.
Notes: Friday night lights? Enka and Chris Carver (1,324 yards, 14 touchdowns) can guarantee their best season since 2001 (the Jets went 5-6 that year) long before any artificial illumination is needed this afternoon. Dustin Waldrop (627 yards and seven touchdowns with eight interceptions) has directed most of his passes to Tommy Holloway (21 receptions for 321 yards and three touchdowns) and Gardner-Webb recruit Drake Wells (20 receptions for 253 yards and two touchdowns). Enka’s campus is just 4.3 miles away from Asheville School, which got 269 yards and four touchdowns from Naeem Swinton last Friday. Fellow junior Jay Evans added 138 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Pick: Enka by 7.
Q. FOUNDATION (1-4) at MURPHY (7-1)
Last week: Q. Foundation did not play; Murphy beat Andrews, 49-25.
Last year: Murphy beat Q. Foundation, 69-26.
Notes: Can Oct. 26 just get here already? Much like every opponent in the path of Murphy, the Charlotte-based Q. Foundation is just another detour to a showdown with Swain County. James Posey and Kenton Braswell each scored a pair of touchdowns a week ago. Austin Satterfield (61 tackles), Bradley Puccio (55.5) and the rest of the defense have allowed the Bulldogs to win their last seven games by 20 or more points. Q. Foundation has been outscored 184-0 in its last four losses.
Pick: Murphy 35.
HIGH POINT CHRIST. (4-3, 2-1) at CHRIST SCHOOL (7-0, 4-0), 7 p.m.
Last week: High Point Christian beat Westminster-Catawba (S.C.), 53-13; Christ School beat SouthLake Christian, 21-14.
Last year: Christ School beat High Point Christian, 35-28.
Notes: Takeaways have punched Christ School’s ticket straight to the top of NCISAA Division II football. For the first time this season, the Greenies are No. 1 in this week’s private school state rankings, and in large part because of the 18 interceptions they have plucked as a team. Eric Davis and Marshall Ranson have six apiece, while Ellis Pace has snatched four. On the other side of the ball, Charles Beale (668 yards, 10 touchdowns) has come on strong, with seven touchdowns in the past two weeks alone. Christian Jewkes (780 yards and 11 touchdowns with six interceptions) is progressing nicely toward his third consecutive 1,000-yard season. High Point Christian has lost three of its last four games.
Pick: Christ School by 30.