Brett Chappell has brought a lot of new elements to the Pisgah football program.
Friday was his most personal touch yet.
The Black Bears surprised Erwin and a capacity crowd by coming out in the wishbone formation and the shell-shocked Warriors took the better part of two quarters to recover at Kerr Stadium.
But they did get their bearings, with Austin Brown passing for 223 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for a fourth score to give Erwin a 46-31 win in its home opener.
Chavis Williams was the recipient of one of those passes, had a late interception and returned the opening kickoff of the second half 82 yards for a touchdown. Kelman Simpson scored the first and final touchdowns of the nonconference game for the Warriors on two short runs (1 and 3 yards).
Chappell was hired to coach Pisgah in January after going 67-35 with four conference championships in eight years at East Henderson.
Chappell once held the Western North Carolina record for career rushing (5,296 yards), a mark he attained in the 1990s while running out of the wishbone at Rosman.
The old-school offense, installed this week in practice by the Black Bears (2-1), threw a scare into the No. 1 team in the Citizen-Times Best of the West rankings.
Pisgah led 21-7 after the first quarter Friday.
Hunter Wike brought Erwin’s first possession to an end with an interception on third down. He then proceeded to catch two touchdown passes from McKinley Brown (14 and 63 yards). Dustin Messer was responsible for the Haywood County team’s first touchdown on a 2-yard run at the 7:08 mark of the opening quarter.
But Austin Brown and Erwin (3-0) fought back.
The former All-WNC quarterback zinged second-quarter touchdown passes to Jordan Tigar (4 yards), Williams (10) and Jonathan Allen (38).
Tigar’s touchdown came with 42.4 seconds to go and allowed the Warriors to go to their locker room at halftime with a 26-24 lead.
Tigar, DeAngelo Collington and Dakota Wright recovered fumbles for Erwin.
Erwin had a couple golden opportunities to build on its advantage in the third quarter but turned the ball over on downs twice at the Pisgah 13 and 15-yard line.
“Once we adjusted (to the wishbone) tonight, I thought our defense did a lot better job in the second half,” Erwin coach Mike Sexton said. “But we made too many mistakes tonight and we left a lot of points on the field. We have got to get better.”
McKinley Brown finished with 259 passing yards. Wike caught a third touchdown pass (18 yards) with 3:26 to go. Pisgah kicker Nathan Higdon hit a 23-yard field goal in the second quarter.
“A great team beat us tonight,” Chappell said. “We were doing everything we needed to do in the first half and taking it to them. I’m proud of my kids. This is going to be a great learning experience for us.”
Erwin continues nonconference play next week at home against Madison, while Pisgah returns to Canton for a game against Hayesville.