Here’s a recap of Friday’s Asheville High-Knoxville West (Tenn.) game from correspondent Tyler Norris Goode:
Knoxville West (Tenn.) star Nathan Cottrell wasn’t Asheville High’s only problem Friday night.
Inclement weather, the Rebels’ defense and Asheville’s special teams were also factors. But Cottrell certainly loomed large.
The Georgia Tech recruit broke loose for a 41 yard run on his first carry, and his 45-yard sprint a few minutes later indirectly led to the Rebels’ first score. He added a 2-yard touchdown run shortly before halftime as Tennessee’s top-ranked 5-A team seized control and took a 34-14 victory over the Cougars in a game that was delayed for more than an hour by lightning.
Cottrell had 127 yards unofficially at halftime.
“We gave up field position early on a couple of shanked punts and blew an opportunity when we got a stop on fourth down after they messed up on a punt situation,” said Asheville coach Danny Wilkins. “But (Knoxville West) is a really good football team. Fundamentally, the block and tackle really, really well. They run good schemes and are really well coached.
Playing in a steady rain that was frequently illuminated by lightning, Asheville High hung with the talented Rebels early as both defenses dominated the first quarter.
Knoxville West didn’t allow an Asheville first down until more than 13 minutes into the game. Meanwhile, the Rebels’ first three possessions technically ended when the Rebels were unable to convert fourth-down plays – though one was a failed pass after a bad punt snap.
“The game was actually probably a little tighter than the score would indicate, and the score doesn’t indicate a blowout or anything,” said Knoxville West coach Scott Cummings. “But I tell you what, I had a lot of respect for Asheville – and they were probably even more physical than I gave them credit for coming in.”
The tide began to turn, though, on Cottrell’s longest run – the 45-yarder – even though he fumbled at the end of it. Asheville’s Jose Daniels scooped the loose ball and tried to head upfield, but he dropped the ball as a crowd of Rebels started to bring him down – and Knoxville West maintained possession at its own 12.
Asheville’s defense held on a fourth-and-four, but the Cougars promptly went three-and-out then lobbed up a weak punt that set up a quick four-play scoring drive that Knoxville West’s Seth Marshall punctuated with a 1-yard score on a quarterback keeper.
The teams traded scores on their next possessions with Asheville fullback Aquila Smith rumbling in from 3 yards out 3-1/2 minutes before West’s Desmond Thompson answered with a 1-yard plunge.
Three inefficient offensive plays later, another lousy Asheville punt set Knoxville West up at the home team’s 30 – and the Rebels needed just five plays to push their lead to 13 on Cottrell’s short score.
Asheville’s punting troubles continued after intermission when Knoxville West’s Eric Middleton blocked a punt by Asheville’s Davis Brooks, and the Rebels’ Cole Skavara recovered at Asheville’s 16.
That was the last play before the lightning delay.