The 50th battle for Haywood County featured an overflow crowd, tons of big hits and — fortunately for visiting Pisgah — five huge Tuscola turnovers.
The Bears didn’t convert all the Mountaineers’ mistakes into points, but quarterback McKinley Brown made sure Pisgah got enough. He had two touchdown tosses and a 1-yard run as the Bears pulled away for a 27-7 victory at C.E. Weatherby Stadium on Friday.
Brown was 11 of 16 for 172 yards passing, including the scoring strikes to Trevor Johnson and Hunter Wike, as Pisgah snapped a two-game skid in its series with Tuscola.
“I put us in some bad positions with some play calling,” first-year Pisgah coach Brett Chappell said. “But at the end of the day, our kids would not quit. They are resilient. They wanted this win. They lost a real heartbreaker last year (24-21). They wanted it. It was a little redemption for these seniors, and I could not be more proud of them.”
Pisgah’s Jeff Henson picked off Tuscola quarterback Woody Cornwell twice, and Johnson had a second-half interception.
As is always the case when these rivals meet, all seats were full an hour before kickoff. A line six-people wide stretched roughly 100 yards behind the entry gate at game time, and fans stood 10-deep behind the end zone nearest the concession stand throughout the contest.
Tuscola (6-2, 3-1 WNCAC) got on the board first when Bryce Myers took a handoff deep in his own territory, cut left then sprinted 96 yards to give the Mountaineers a 7-0 lead less than 4-1/2 minutes in.
It was Myers’ second straight game with a scoring run of 90-plus yards — he had a 92-yarder the week before against North Henderson — but a hard hit shortly after the score slowed him severely the rest of the way.
Other than his scoring run, Tuscola managed an unofficial 62 yards in the first half.
“(Myers) took a helmet to the shin,” Tuscola coach Brandon Allen said. “It really hindered him. We lost him and (Ben Greene) early (on the same play), and that really put us in a bind offensively. But my hat goes off to Pisgah. They played their rear ends off, and they deserve the victory.”
Pisgah responded to Myers’ run with a scoring drive of its own, sparked by Brown’s 51-yard pass to Jesse Anderson. That set up a six-yard scoring strike to Johnson.
Nathan Higdon later tacked on field goals of 42 and 29 yards. Johnson credited his new coach with helping the Bears win for just the second time in the last six meetings against Tuscola.
“It’s all coming from coach Chappell and the intensity he’s given us and how he’s making us play,” Johnson said. “We’re really appreciative of him.”