ENKA (1-6, 1-1) at ASHEVILLE (4-2, 1-0)
Last week: Enka lost to Erwin, 42-17; Asheville beat Reynolds, 27-17.
Last year: Enka beat Asheville, 34-24.
Notes: Sentimentality can wait for some other night. Asheville High coach Danny Wilkins graduated from Enka in 1975 and has watched three children play sports for the Jets. But tonight’s homecoming game should be all about business for the Cougars and Danquiries Green (14.4 tackles a game), who suffered a stunning 10-point loss a year ago. It was Enka’s first win over Asheville in 17 years. The current group of Cougars is coming off a third consecutive win over rival Reynolds for the first time since 2005. Green is a former All-MAC selection who has embraced his first full year at inside linebacker and leads the 3-A/4-A league in tackles, followed by Bryson Bradley (13.6). Tevin Salters (690 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions) threw for 133 yards a week ago and completed a 42-yard touchdown pass to Charlotte recruit Markevis Davis. Rushing-wise, Cameron Ray (322 yards, seven touchdowns) led the way with 126 yards. Last year’s Enka defense forced five Asheville turnovers (four fumbles, one interception), and a similar effort might be needed from standouts like Cody Clark (11.6 tackles a game), Nathan Saunders (7.7) and Brandon Hughes (7.1). Leading rusher Tommy Holloway (652 yards, five touchdowns) ran for a touchdown and caught a second one from Tyler Pressley a week ago, while Shadow Christenson (25 receptions for 301 yards and two touchdowns) booted a 25-yard field goal.
Pick: Asheville by 14.
MCDOWELL (2-5, 0-2) at ERWIN (6-0, 2-0)
Last week: McDowell lost to North Buncombe, 28-27; Erwin beat Enka, 42-17.
Last year: McDowell beat Erwin, 42-28.
Notes: Ravaged by injuries at linebacker, Erwin was powerless to stop McDowell a year ago. The Warriors have a lot more juice this go-around, thanks to defenders like Dakota Wright (66 tackles), Jordan Tigar (47), Mitchell Chancey (45) and DeAngelo Collington (43). Of course, most of the headlines come out of the offense. Austin Brown (1,856 yards and 19 touchdowns with six interceptions) took over the lead in WNC passing last Friday, and his top receivers have been Jonathan Allen (39 receptions for 605 yards and six touchdowns), Chavis Williams (22 receptions for 364 yards and four touchdowns) and Jordan Tigar (21 receptions for 399 yards and three touchdowns). Leading rusher Kelman Simpson (641 yards, 13 touchdowns) has more than 1,000 all-purpose yards. Erwin moved up a spot to No. 4 in the latest Associated Press 3-A poll. McDowell quarterback Casey Ray (758 yards and six touchdowns with five interceptions) appears to be on his way to a 1,000-yard season with his favorite targets being Dallas Myers (19 receptions for 282 yards and three touchdowns) and Ethan Macmahan (12 receptions for 162 yards). Trey Anderson (809 yards, three touchdowns) is also nearing 1,000 yards for the second consecutive year.
Pick: Erwin by 28.
ROBERSON (3-3, 1-0) at NORTH BUNCOMBE (3-4, 1-1)
Last week: Roberson did not play; North Buncombe beat McDowell, 28-27.
Last year: Roberson beat North Buncombe, 56-9.
Notes: Coming through loud and clear. The connection between North Buncombe sophomores Chase Parker (750 yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions) and Austin Sheperd (21 receptions for 409 yards and eight touchdowns) remains the most potent piece of the Black Hawks offense. The two connected for their eighth touchdown (43 yards) with 59 seconds to go last Friday. Trenton Bullman has hauled in a team-high 22 receptions for 237 yards. Leading rushers for the MAC’s most improved team are Dylan Fox (371 yards, two touchdowns) and Caleb Gwaltney (261 yards, three touchdowns). Gwaltney (62.5), Bullman (40.5) and others will find out the state of the Black Hawks’ pass defense tonight against Roberson senior Reggie Pinner (1,730 yards and 21 touchdowns with five interceptions). His primary outlets have been Alex Talley (32 receptions for 438 yards and two touchdowns), Zach Dollinger (30 receptions for 480 yards and eight touchdowns) and Marcus Jenkins (28 receptions for 492 yards and eight touchdowns). Roberson is averaging just 101.7 team rushing yards a game. The defense is keyed by Jacob Deaton (65 tackles), Dollinger (51) and Patrick Gilliam (49).
Pick: Roberson by 14.
BREVARD (2-4, 0-2) at EAST HENDERSON (0-6, 0-2)
Last week: Brevard lost to Tuscola, 41-9; East Henderson lost to North Henderson, 42-14.
Last year: East Henderson beat Brevard, 62-13.
Notes: First-year coaches do not always inherit the most ideal situations. That helps explain why Brevard’s Jason Lippard, East Henderson’s Steve Whitt and the three other WNC men in their position are a combined 7-25 this season. Whitt saw his team take an early 7-0 lead last Friday on Jesse Rogers’ 68-yard interception. Austin Fisher later returned a kickoff 69 yards for the second score. Quarterback Aaron Moody’s 304 passing yards are the most by an Eagles player in any offensive category, and he has also accounted for a team-high four touchdowns. Chase Blanken (32 tackles) and Cameron Johnson (27.5) bolster the defense. Mikel Minugh’s 21-yard run was the lone touchdown for Brevard and Lippard last Friday.
Pick: Brevard by 1.
WEST HENDERSON (0-6, 0-2) at PISGAH (4-2, 1-1)
Last week: West Henderson lost to Smoky Mountain, 42-14; Pisgah lost to Franklin, 14-13.
Last year: Pisgah beat West Henderson, 55-28.
Notes: Nearly 30 minutes passed last Friday before stunned Pisgah players left the field at Franklin. McKinley Brown (1,171 yards and 14 touchdowns with five interceptions) could not have done more to change the outcome. Pisgah’s quarterback went over the 1,000-yard mark and had a potential game-winning touchdown run negated by a penalty in the final minute of a one-point loss. Brown has directed most of his passes to Jesse Anderson (30 receptions for 422 yards and seven receptions) and Hunter Wike (17 receptions for 423 yards and seven touchdowns). The Bears had just 17 team rushing yards last Friday and will look to improve in that category against a West Henderson defense that relies heavily on Casone Ward (57.5 tackles) and Jonathan Perrone (46.5).
Pick: Pisgah by 21.
FRANKLIN (6-0, 2-0) at SMOKY MOUNTAIN (3-3, 1-1)
Last week: Franklin beat Pisgah, 14-13; Smoky Mountain beat West Henderson 42-14.
Last year: Franklin beat Smoky Mountain, 40-7.
Notes: Welcome back? Franklin senior Marquel Manning is questionable for tonight’s Cowee Mountain rivalry game, which would be his first action since Aug. 30. The area’s top rusher from 2012 (2,364 yards) tore a medial collateral ligament two months ago in a 40-17 blowout of Murphy. In his absence, junior Jeremiah Young (1,008 yards, 14 touchdowns) has become a 1,000-yard rusher while leading the team in tackles (42.5), followed by Dalton Cochran (30.5). Franklin’s defense is yielding a WNC-low 15.8 points per game. Luke Keener (825 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions) has thrown most of his passes to Josh Lindley (18 receptions for 342 yards and two touchdowns) and Chance Gibbs (13 receptions for 280 yards and two touchdowns). The Panthers remain No. 3 in this week’s Associated Press 3-A poll and have won 12 of their last 13 meetings with Smoky Mountain. The Mustangs still have hope for their first winning season in 14 years thanks to the contributions of Chace Morgan (1,042 yards, 10 touchdowns), Zeb Speir (884 yards and six touchdowns with six interceptions), Zechariah Carter (18 receptions for 488 yards and five touchdowns) and Carlos Pantoja (37 tackles).
Pick: Franklin by 14.
AVERY COUNTY (3-3, 0-1) at HENDERSONVILLE (3-4, 1-1)
Last week: Avery County beat Unaka (Tenn.), 51-0; Hendersonville beat Madison, 30-28.
Last year: Hendersonville beat Avery County, 19-0.
Notes: Longtime Hendersonville coach B.J. Laughter has faith in his quarterback. And not just because junior Cole Cleary (868 rushing yards, 838 passing yards and 16 combined touchdowns) and Laughter are members of the congregation at Fruitland Baptist Church. Cleary threw two touchdowns and even caught one from Michael Schmidt a week ago. Lucas Brovet (100 tackles) became the first WNC defender to reach that benchmark a week ago. Last Friday’s final step outside the WHC couldn’t have gone any better for Avery County — Daniel Childress (622 yards, four touchdowns) added 128 yards and two touchdowns to his season totals, while Tre Jackson (315 rushing yards, 306 passing yards and 12 combined touchdowns) continued to be a jack of all football trades. The junior passed and rushed for a touchdown, along with kicking a 45-yard field goal.
Pick: Hendersonville by 7.
OWEN (5-1, 2-0) at MOUNTAIN HERITAGE (4-3, 1-1)
Last week: Owen beat Mitchell, 62-6; Mountain Heritage lost to Polk County, 80-36.
Last year: Owen beat Mountain Heritage, 55-28.
Notes: Jager Gardner (1,463 yards, 18 touchdowns) chews up big yardage for the Owen rushing game. And the junior takes some big bites — even six games into his junior season, WNC’s leading rusher averages 11.5 yards a carry. Gardner gets his handoffs from Sam Drummond (694 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions) and a third 11th grader, Zee Johnston (515 yards, six touchdowns), is also a threat to run the ball. The Warhorses defense takes its cues from Cade Fox (56 tackles), Tucker Lowery (50) and Austin Bennett (41) and will try to corral Mountain Heritage and touchdown machine Trevor Robinson (971 passing yards, 845 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns). Robinson is on the verge of becoming a 1,000-yard passer thanks to Jake McClellan (26 receptions for 398 yards and three touchdowns) and Dalton Robinson (11 receptions for 111 yards and five touchdowns). The top players on the other side of the ball for the Cougars are Colby Presnell (64 tackles) and Issac Allen (39).
Pick: Owen by 14.
MITCHELL (1-5, 0-1) at POLK COUNTY (4-3, 2-0)
Last week: Mitchell lost to Owen, 62-6; Polk County beat Mountain Heritage, 80-36.
Last year: Polk County beat Mitchell, 35-20.
Notes: How many points are left in Polk County after last Friday? Reece Schlabach (1,037 passing yards, 501 rushing yards and 18 combined touchdowns) and the Wolverines put up a season-high 80 points at Mountain Heritage. Schlabach is a 1,000-yard passer for the first time, and he can largely thank fellow senior Anthony Carson (36 receptions for 576 yards and five touchdowns) for that. Schlabach is also the Wolverines’ No. 1 tackler (54), followed by Debois Miller (47) and Tyrone Miller (46). Three Mitchell defenders are averaging seven or more tackles per game — Dalton Beaver (9.0), Michael Vaughn (7.7) and Trevan Riddle (7.5). Oscar Cruz’s first touchdown reception of the season (a 26-yard touchdown pass from Cole Burleson) was the only scoring output for the Mountaineers a week ago.
Pick: Polk County by 21.
ROSMAN (2-5, 0-2) at ANDREWS (1-5, 0-1)
Last week: Rosman lost to Hayesville, 35-20; Andrews lost to Robbinsville, 33-0.
Last year: Rosman beat Andrews, 43-26.
Notes: Stop picking on the little guys. Andrews (250 students), Cherokee (324) and Rosman (360) are three of the four smallest football-playing NCHSAA schools in the mountains, and all are still bidding for their first SMC wins. Colin Gillespie (644 yards, five touchdowns) ran for a season-high 175 yards last Friday, but the Wildcats were shut out for the first time this season. Dylan McCubbin and Jacob Whitaker share the Cherokee County’s team lead in tackles (47). Bristol Brockwell (38) and Dillard Ward (36) are not far behind. Rosman’s offense is predicated on the rushing of Austin Anders (627 yards, eight touchdowns), Tanner Green (529 yards, six touchdowns) and Josh Rice (369 yards, six touchdowns). Green also leads the way in tackles (43), followed by Stetson Cauble (37).
Pick: Rosman by 7.
SWAIN COUNTY (4-2, 1-0) at HAYESVILLE (4-3, 2-0)
Last week: Swain County did not play; Hayesville beat Rosman, 35-20.
Last year: Swain County beat Hayesville, 38-7.
Notes: Well said. Hayesville coach Ernie Hughes’ halftime speech must have been a stirring one last Friday. The Yellow Jackets and Bryce Clapsaddle (419 yards and four touchdowns with one interception) scored 29 of their points in the third and fourth quarters to win back-to-back SMC games for just the second time in four years. Clapsaddle had his best game of the season, passing-wise (163 yards). The Yellow Jackets are averaging just 85.6 rushing yards a game but got touchdown runs from Dayrion Williams (32 yards) and Payton Long (11) a week ago. Swain County is sixth in this week’s Associated Press 1-A poll with a varied attack on offense that includes Spencer McCoy (722 yards, 11 touchdowns), Raymius Smith (644 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions) and Kobe Toineeta (16 receptions for 216 yards). Taylor Oros is averaging 12.2 tackles per game.
Pick: Swain County by 10.
ROBBINSVILLE (5-1, 1-1) at MURPHY (5-2, 2-0)
Last week: Robbinsville beat Andrews, 33-0; Murphy beat Cherokee, 51-12.
Last year: Murphy beat Robbinsville, 55-21.
Notes: Stop the press? Online voters in a USA TODAY poll confirmed what many in WNC already knew — Murphy’s David Gentry can coach some football. Gentry is the winningest coach in area history (338 career victories) and was North Carolina’s top vote-getter (38,057) in the statewide stage of the newspaper’s search for the top U.S. coach. Voting in the regional stage of the competition began Wednesday. At the moment, Gentry presides over the hottest team in the SMC — the Bulldogs have won five consecutive games with Deion Johnson (648 yards, nine touchdowns), Kenton Braswell (543 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Gaige Cox (434 yards, two touchdowns) balancing out an offense commanded by first-year starting quarterback Dalton Kent (715 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions). Robbinsville and Cruz Galaviz (959 yards, 15 touchdowns) are No. 8 in this week’s Associated Press 1-A poll and haven’t beaten Murphy since 2004. Dakota Crisp (942 yards and nine touchdowns with four interceptions) and Alex Walsh (14 receptions for 384 yards and six touchdowns) will try to bridge that gap with their offense. The Black Knights defense gets much of its strength from Skyler Matheson (73 tackles), Galaviz (69) and Brandon Lee (67).
Pick: Murphy by 1.
ASHEVILLE SCHOOL (0-5) at HICKORY GROVE (4-1), 6:30 p.m.
Last week: Asheville School lost to Rabun Gap (Ga.), 28-6; Hickory Grove beat First Assembly, 40-14.
Last year: The two teams did not play.
Notes: Check the tape. Asheville School uploaded the latest touchdown from senior Naeem Swinton to YouTube, and with good reason. A rather ordinary reception took an acrobatic turn when Swinton hurdled a would-be Rabun Gap tackler on his way to the end zone. As good as the play was, the Blues need more of it. They have been outscored 201-62 during the program’s first 0-5 start since 2007. That futility has resulted in a rare mid-season coaching change — Asheville School announced Wednesday that Roger Harris will be replaced by assistant Gus Schill. Harris went 11-14 since his hiring in 2011. Hickory Grove, which is situated in Charlotte, is No. 2 in the latest NCISAA Division II rankings. Junior Bruce Dixon (1,368 yards and 17 touchdowns with four interceptions) is a 1,000-yard passer for the Lions.
Pick: Hickory Grove by 14.
MADISON (3-3) at WEST GREENE, Tenn. (4-3)
Last week: Madison lost to Hendersonville, 30-28; West Greene lost to Claiborne (Tenn.), 32-21.
Last year: The two teams did not play.
Notes: Maybe it was not a triumphant return in every sense for Madison quarterback Tyler Rogers. But it was a return nonetheless. Rogers (334 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions) threw for 155 yards and two touchdowns last Friday in his first game since Aug. 30. Having the former 1,000-yard passer back from a broken leg should lighten the load on Tyler Hoffman (1,066 yards, 13 touchdowns), who went over 1,000 yards last Friday. He caught one of Rogers’ touchdowns, while Cole Cuthbertson (11 receptions for 242 yards and two touchdowns) had the other. Daniel Nash (73 tackles), Dylan Hilemon (64) and Derrick English (56) continue to bolster the Madison defense.
Pick: Madison by 7.
CAROLINA GLADIATORS (3-2) at CHRIST SCHOOL (4-1), 7 p.m.
Last week: The Gladiators lost to the Carolina Pride, 30-14; Christ School did not play.
Last year: The two teams did not play.
Notes: Saturday night lights may not exactly have the same ring as its Friday brethren. But it’ll do for Christ School and senior Ellis Pace (563 yards, five touchdowns). Pace also leads the Greenies in receiving with four catches for 104 yards and one touchdown, while Landon Archangelo (304 yards and one touchdown with one interception) is his quarterback. Jack Bonds (11.8 tackles per game) and Walker Lanning (11.0) have been the stalwarts for the Greenies defense. Christ School remains No. 3 in this week’s NCISAA Division II rankings and is now 22-2 in regular-season games under third-year coach Mark Moroz. These two teams scrimmaged one another in the preseason. The Gladiators are a first-year independent program based out of Asheville that has dropped back-to-back games (including a 31-28 loss at Rosman on Sept. 20) after a 3-0 start.
Pick: Christ School by 10.