Pisgah football coach Brett Chappell didn’t have much of a choice.
Chappell turned over more offensive responsibility to McKinley Brown when starting tailback Dustin Messer tore an anterior cruciate ligament in early September.
Brown hasn’t looked back.
The quarterback has completed 71 percent of his 265 pass attempts for 2,725 yards and 35 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He is also the leading rusher for the Black Bears (10-2) with 132 carries for 345 yards and seven touchdowns.
Brown and fourth-seeded Pisgah are at home tonight for the second round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs against No. 5 Hibriten (11-1).
Kickoff is set for 7:30.
“McKinley had such a great summer for us. I felt like he would surprise some people and be someone we were going to be talking about,” Chappell said.
“But I honestly didn’t know he would have this kind of season. He’s got a great cast around him and having a season with some records that we haven’t seen around here in a long time.”
Indeed, Brown became the first-ever Western North Carolina player to throw eight touchdowns in one game when Pisgah shut out Brevard, 59-0, on Nov. 8 in Canton. Two weeks earlier, Brown set a school record for total offense (469 yards) in a 35-6 rout at North Henderson.
“I don’t really like to pay attention to the (individual) numbers,” Brown said.
“I pay attention to wins and losses. With the four receivers we have, it’s hard to get everyone the right ball at the right time. Usually, more than one of them is open, sometimes all of them. I’m thankful for every one of them.”
Brown is a 6-foot, 190-pound senior who also plays basketball, but he hopes the start of that winter sports season will be delayed for some time by a football playoff run.
Brown’s options at receiver include Jesse Anderson (58 receptions for 901 yards and 11 touchdowns), Hunter Wike (42 receptions for 952 yards and 15 touchdowns), Trevor Johnson (36 receptions for 380 yards and five touchdowns) and Jesse Martinez (29 receptions for 435 yards and four touchdowns).
Brown passed for 147 yards and put three touchdowns into the hands of Anderson, Johnson and Martinez in last Friday’s 31-14 win over 13th-seeded Hickory. Colton Shuler came up big on special teams with a second-quarter blocked punt that flipped the game’s momentum.
Vadrey Couch (89 tackles), Dylan Hannah (87), Johnson (74), Shuler (58), Sherrill Rathbone (52) and Wike (48) are the most prolific defenders for a Pisgah team that is 6-0 at home this season. The Black Bears have learned in the last week that their 24-21 loss at Smoky Mountain on Nov. 1 has been reversed due to the Mustangs forfeiting four regular-season games and their playoff opener for the use of an ineligible player.
Hibriten quarterback Jacob Copper is a 1,000-yard rusher for a Panthers offense that puts up 289 yards across the ground per game.
“(Hibriten) is a really good team and has been the last few years,” Chappell said. “The thing that stands out is how big they are up front. We looked at the numbers and they’re averaging about 280 pounds up front. It’s as big a line as we’ve seen. It should be a great second-round matchup.”
The winner of tonight’s game in Canton will play either No. 9 Forestview (8-4) or top-seeded Morganton Freedom in next week’s third round. Freedom is the only team that has beaten Hibriten (42-35 on Oct. 25).