All kickoffs are at 7:30 p.m.
Mountain Athletic 3-A/4-A
REYNOLDS (8-1, 4-0) at ROBERSON (2-7, 1-3)
Last week: Reynolds beat McDowell, 63-6; Roberson lost to Asheville, 28-21.
Last year: Reynolds beat Roberson, 42-13.
Notes: Here’s a scary thought to tide you over until Halloween. Reynolds and Rico Dowdle (1,672 rushing yards, 931 passing yards and 43 combined touchdowns) have won their first four Mountain Athletic Conference games by an average of exactly 42.0 points. Which for the football layman could be six or seven touchdowns depending on what occurs with the extra-point attempts. Now factor in that the Rockets have already cleared the two biggest obstacles (Asheville High and Erwin) to their first MAC championship since 2012. Dowdle is just a dozen touchdowns shy of the Western North Carolina single-season record (55) with receivers running routes for him like Keyal Talbert (19 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns), who is currently injured, along with A.J. Logan (836 rushing yards, 187 receiving yards and nine combined touchdowns) and Eunique Waters (15 receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns). The Rockets defense gets most of its tackles from Aundreas Hill (11.4 per game), Najae Buchanan (8.3), Deshawn Finley (7.0), Austin McCurry (6.3) and Malik Long (5.9). The Rams threw a scare into Asheville High last week with Luke Deal (191 yards and one touchdown with one interception) passing for 115 yards and a 69-yard touchdown to Denzel Summey (15 receptions for 351 yards and three touchdowns). Dezmond Moorman (589 yards, eight touchdowns) has been another big factor on offense. Roberson’s defense is a group that depends on Seth Griswold (13.2 tackles per game), Logan Wells (10.9), Robert Balcom (5.6), Ian McAdoo (5.4) and Greg Johnston (5.4). Reynolds leads this all-time series, 37-16-1, and has won seven out of the last eight games. The Rockets moved up to No. 5 in this week’s Associated Press rankings for NCHSAA 3-A, their highest placement of the season.
Pick: Reynolds by 17.
ENKA (1-8, 0-4) at MCDOWELL (3-7, 0-5)
Last week: Enka did not play; McDowell lost to Reynolds, 63-6.
Last year: McDowell beat Enka, 33-28.
Notes: Stick to what you know and the yards will flow. The large majority of Enka’s first downs have come with senior Michael Cantrell (1,101 yards, 11 touchdowns) pounding the rock. Similarly, the McDowell offense operates most effectively when 1,000-yard passer Casey Ray is given time in the pocket. Cantrell and the Jets have dropped eight consecutive games since winning their season opener (48-47 over Owen in overtime on Aug. 21) and will look to get back on track with Jason Fabio (691 passing yards, 169 rushing yards and eight combined touchdowns) spreading the ball around to Cantrell (10 receptions for 138 yards and one touchdown), Chase Bennett (24 receptions for 206 yards and one touchdown), Avery Holbrook (18 receptions for 143 yards) and Sayquan Bethea (15 receptions for 161 yards). Leading tacklers for the Jets are Bryson Buckner (7.4 a game), Zane Turner (6.6), Chance Hannah (6.4), Avery Holbrook (6.4), Hunter Kinser (5.4) and J.R. Banks (5.3). As for McDowell, Ray and Ethan McMahan hooked up for the Titans’ only touchdown last Friday at Reynolds – a 35-yard pass with 11:44 to go in the fourth quarter. Defensive leaders for the team are Chase Campbell (5.7), Devon Patton (5.5), Kaali Tobe (5.3), Damon McNeely (4.9) and Adam Randolph (4.7).
Pick: McDowell by 1.
WNC Athletic 2-A/3-A
NORTH HENDERSON (5-4, 2-3) at BREVARD (2-7, 0-5)
Last week: North Henderson lost to Pisgah, 31-7; Brevard lost to Smoky Mountain, 28-26.
Last year: North Henderson beat Brevard, 42-34.
Notes: Brevard junior Tanner Pettit must be a tired teenager on Saturday mornings. Pettit is Western North Carolina’s new leader in tackles with 14.0 stops per game. He is also far and away the Blue Devils’ leading rusher with 762 yards and 10 touchdowns and their top receiver with 27 catches for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow junior Tanner Ellenberger (1,251 yards and 10 touchdowns with six interceptions) has completed most of his throws to Pettit as well as Nick Cabe (26 receptions for 400 yards and five touchdowns), Hamilton Lopez (21 receptions for 258 yards and one touchdown) and Lane Pressley (11 receptions for 107 yards). North Henderson and its multi-dimensional quarterback, senior Trevor Craft (1,140 passing yards, 745 rushing yards and 19 combined touchdowns), have three impressive road wins this fall – Roberson, Hendersonville and Tuscola. However, a 23-yard blocked punt return by Jacob Garrett was the Knights’ only points a week ago. Craft’s favorite receivers have been Darren Lammons (25 receptions for 475 yards and five touchdowns) and Ashton Woodring (25 receptions for 404 yards and three touchdowns). Tackling-wise, North Henderson’s standouts are Austin Vanhoy (11.2), Cole McCarson (10.9), Brandon Johnson (7.7), Cameron Bumgarner (6.9), Devon Graham (6.5), Drew Mitchell (6.4), Garrett (5.9), Damian Murphy (5.5) Ashton Woodring (5.1) and Lammons (4.6).
Pick: North Henderson by 7.
TUSCOLA (6-3, 3-2) at EAST HENDERSON (1-8, 1-4)
Last week: Tuscola beat West Henderson, 21-0; East Henderson lost to Franklin, 49-34.
Last year: Tuscola beat East Henderson, 38-34.
Notes: Ready, set, peak! Now is the time to start playing your best with the NCHSAA playoffs just two weeks away. The Tuscola defense took that to heart last Friday with its first shutout since 2013. Key tacklers for the group are Zach Webster (10.1 tackles per game), Taylor Austin (8.8), Joe Napert (8.0), Tregg Rice (7.3), Grayson Perkins (6.9), Jeremy Jacobs (6.4), Eli Trantham (6.1) and Anthony Agate (5.4). Webster (791 passing yards, 492 rushing yards and 14 combined touchdowns) continues to pile up yards with his arm and legs, while junior Caleb Ferguson (1,031 rushing yards, 265 receiving yards and 16 combined touchdowns) went over the 1,000-yard mark last Friday. In his first start of the season, East Henderson senior Kyle Frady passed for 132 yards with touchdown passes to Darren Osbourne (40 yards) and Daniel Parker (50) last Friday. Cole Revis (352 yards, three touchdowns) and the Eagles scored a season-high 34 points against two-time defending WNCAC champion Franklin. Revis and fellow senior Nick Lyons (308 yards, three touchdowns) are neck-and-neck in rushing yards. Lyons (17 receptions for 158 yards and one touchdown) is second in receiving to Josh Glynn (22 receptions for 360 yards and four touchdowns). Defensive standouts have been Revis (8.6), Lyons (6.4) and Coal Webb (5.3).
Pick: Tuscola by 7.
WEST HENDERSON (6-3, 3-2) at FRANKLIN (7-2, 5-0)
Last week: West Henderson lost to Tuscola, 21-0; Franklin beat East Henderson, 49-34.
Last year: Franklin beat West Henderson, 42-13.
Notes: No gray area at all. Franklin senior Kelton Lowry (1,283 yards, 19 touchdowns) not only went over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time last Friday, he did with a 301-yard, five-touchdown performance. Lowry is averaging 7.7 yards per carry and the Panthers offense is balanced out by Jackson Perone (645 yards and two touchdowns with six interceptions), Hunter Gibbs (582 yards, two touchdowns) and Jordin Nugent (17 receptions for 250 yards and two touchdowns). On the other side of the ball, Franklin takes it cues from Gibbs (11.3 tackles per game), Dillon Daves (6.2), Logan Tallent (5.6), Clayton Phillips (5.3), Ethan Volk (5.1) Kendrick Bryson (5.0) and Lowry (5.0). The Panthers have already clinched at worst a share of their third consecutive WNCAC regular-season championship and have 21 consecutive games in the 2-A/3-A league. West Henderson is coming off its second shutout loss of the season (the first was a 14-0 defeat that occurred Sept. 18 at Mountain Heritage) and the offense has scored just 35 points in the past four games. Brandon Whitaker (371 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions) mans the controls of the option-oriented attack with rushers such as Tanner Bullock (721 yards, seven touchdowns) and Peyton Frisbee (395 yards, four touchdowns) at his disposal. Tristan Thomas has hauled in a team-high 20 receptions for 256 yards and one touchdown). The defense draws its strength from Stephen Perron (8.9 tackles per game), Thomas (6.7), Landon Owen (6.2), Frisbee (5.3), Devin Stepp (5.0) and Shack Rospel (4.9).
Pick: Franklin by 7.
PISGAH (6-3, 3-2) at SMOKY MOUNTAIN (5-4, 3-2)
Last week: Pisgah beat North Henderson, 31-7; Smoky Mountain beat Brevard, 28-26.
Last year: Pisgah beat Smoky Mountain, 21-0.
Notes: Thank you very much for the generosity, Carolina Panthers. Jackson County Schools announced Monday that a $200,000 grant from the NFL team will allow Smoky Mountain to become the 15th area program to get an artificial turf field. Consider this, none of WNC’s 31 football-playing high schools had a turf field prior to 2005. The Mustangs moved back over .500 last week, renewing hope that this could be their first winning season in 16 years. Chase Fisher (537 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions), Jayce Milkey and Eli Cole all ran for touchdowns a week ago, while Connor Moore returned a kickoff 61 yards for a fourth score. For the season, Carson Shuler (541 yards, four touchdowns) and Matthew Ridley (499 yards, four touchdowns) have been the biggest cogs in the Mustangs’ running game. Defensively, the team is buoyed by Carlos Pantoja (12.1 tackles per game), Kevin Allred (6.8), Moore (6.2), Milkey (5.9), Jacob Gass (5.7) and Carson Shuler (5.4). Pisgah senior Daniel Van Vaerenbergh (1,245 yards, 11 touchdowns) added 159 yards to his season total last Friday. Houston Rogers (883 yards and nine touchdowns with five interceptions), Michael Parrott (248 yards, four touchdowns), Trey Morgan (35 receptions for 417 yards and six touchdowns) and Jesse Martinez (24 receptions for 332 yards and two touchdowns) are other big playmakers for the Black Bears. Their top tacklers are Jeff Albritton (5.5 per game), Garrett Jones (5.2) and Isaiah Fisher (4.1).
Pick: Pisgah by 3.
Western Highlands 1-A/2-A
POLK COUNTY (4-5, 2-2) at OWEN (1-8, 1-4)
Last week: Polk County did not play; Owen lost to Hendersonville, 56-42.
Last year: Owen beat Polk County, 35-0.
Notes: Try these on and see if they fit. Owen sophomore Sidney Gibbs (1,618 yards, 18 touchdowns) stepped into some big shoes when he took over for Western North Carolina’s all-time leading rusher – 2014 Citizen-Times All-WNC Player of the Year Jager Gardner (6,953 career yards) is now a freshman at nationally-ranked Temple (7-0). Gibbs has been a lot more than serviceable. In fact, the underclassman is the leading rusher in the Western Highlands Conference. And Gibbs is coming off his fourth 200-yard game of the season after running for a career-high four touchdowns against first-place Hendersonville last week. DeMarcus Harper (899 yards and six touchdowns with nine interceptions) is one big game away from a 1,000-yard season thanks to the hands of fellow senior Bricen Fowler (26 receptions for 499 yards and two touchdowns) and Cyrus Hooper (15 receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns). Landon Hollar (6.1 tackles per game), Hooper (5.9) and Dexter Andrews (5.1) are the team’s top tacklers. Polk County and Jamal Wheeler (1,331 rushing yards, 722 passing yards and 26 combined touchdowns) haven’t played since a 43-41 win at Avery County on Oct. 16. Wheeler carried the ball 20 times for 307 yards and four touchdowns and passed for 102 yards and two touchdowns in that game. His favorite receivers have been Josh Chupp (17 receptions for 179 yards) and Storm Wheeler (10 receptions for 225 yards). The Wolverines defense relies on Khiree Green (6.2 tackles per game), Deven Panchnshn (5.0), Jaymes Wingo (5.0) and Bradon Miller (4.3).
Pick: Polk County by 10.
MOUNTAIN HERITAGE (7-2, 3-1) at AVERY COUNTY (1-8, 0-4)
Last week: Mountain Heritage beat Mitchell, 41-27; Avery County lost to Madison, 28-23.
Last year: Mountain Heritage beat Avery County, 30-17.
Notes: Statistics don’t always tell the whole story. Numbers-wise, Mountain Heritage sophomore Trey Robinson (1,463 rushing yards, 640 passing yards and 29 combined touchdowns) has played better games. But the young quarterback was still a shoo-in for the Mission Health Spotlight Performance of the Week award after engineering last week’s 14-point win over previously-undefeated Mitchell. Robinson finished the evening in Burnsville with 186 passing yards and four touchdowns along with 27 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown. Cole Burleson (20 receptions for 248 yards and seven touchdowns) caught three of those touchdowns against the Mountaineers. Alston Randolph (11 receptions for 252 yards and two touchdowns) also had one. Dathan Robinson (502 yards, three touchdowns) and Britt Burleson (307 yards, five touchdowns) have been good supplementary players in the Cougars’ rushing attack. Their leading tacklers are Adam Shuford (10.8), Levi Robinson (10.4), Cory Presnell (8.8), Tyler Brown (6.0) and Isaac Allen (5.6). Avery County senior Luke Crowe continues to build on his first career 1,000-yard season – the Vikings quarterback passed for 103 yards with touchdown throws to Grant Hammer (18 yards), Chandler Stansberry (19) and Levi McIntosh (46).
Pick: Mountain Heritage by 14.
MADISON (2-7, 2-2) at MITCHELL (8-1, 3-1)
Last week: Madison beat Avery County, 28-23; Mitchell lost to Mountain Heritage, 41-27.
Last year: Mitchell beat Madison, 21-18.
Notes: Losing a game shouldn’t mean losing perspective. Mitchell and Ben Young (1,549 passing yards, 235 rushing yards and 23 combined touchdowns) are still compiling one of their best-ever seasons after a school record 8-0 start. Young threw a pair of touchdowns to Tre Carson (40 receptions for 740 yards and seven touchdowns) and one to Alex McKinney (12 receptions for 243 yards and four touchdowns) last Friday. Justin Greene (17 receptions for 206 yards and one touchdown) and Brody Smith (13 receptions for 114 yards) are also significant to the receiving corps, while the ground attack is headed up by Dalton Beaver (598 yards, eight touchdowns), Cy Thomas (492 yards, five touchdowns) and Peyton Greene (328 yards, seven touchdowns). Beaver paces the defense with 9.8 tackles per game, followed by Will Atkins (8.4), Alex McKinney (4.7) and Troy Self (4.5). Madison and Derek Gonzalez (644 yards, six touchdowns) have won back-to-back games for the first time since 2013. Gonzalez only carried the ball a dozen times last Friday, but racked up 152 yards and three touchdowns. Fellow junior Junior Denton (245 yards, one touchdown) added a season-high rushing 124 yards. Colby Edwards (843 yards and five touchdowns with 10 interceptions) has spread the ball around to Austin Payne (20 receptions for 320 yards and two touchdowns), Dawson Coates (16 receptions for 386 yards and three touchdowns) and Travis Hollifield (11 receptions for 99 yards and one touchdown). Madison’s defense gets its strength from Wesley Barnett (11.8 tackles per game), Keagan Foley (6.5), Mason Edwards (5.1), Logan Roberts (5.0), Austin Shelton (4.8) and Brent Turner (4.6).
Pick: Mitchell by 7.
ANDREWS (4-6, 1-4) at HAYESVILLE (3-5, 0-4)
Last week: Andrews beat Cherokee, 41-30; Hayesville lost to Murphy, 54-13.
Last year: Andrews beat Hayesville, 39-15.
Notes: Wanna turn a few heads? Win a few games. Andrews and Dillan Ward (1,023 yards, five touchdowns) did not take kindly to being picked to finish dead-last in the SMC coaches preseason poll. And they have already surpassed their wins total from all of 2014 (three). Ward, who is a senior, went over the 1,000-yard mark last Friday with a 185-yard, three-touchdown outing. He and Taylor Parker (983 rushing yards, 582 passing yards and 16 touchdowns) have provided much of the punch for the Cherokee County team’s offense. James Hoke (13 receptions for 227 yards and three touchdowns) and Tyler Rose (11 receptions for 172 yards and two touchdowns) have caught most of Parker’s passes. The defense is bolstered by Grayson Parker (9.0 tackles per game), Ward (8.4), Drew Pyle (7.1), Derek Bateman (6.0) and Willie Parker (5.6). Hayesville junior Kyle Rhinehardt (875 yards and five touchdowns with seven interceptions) completed his sixth and seventh touchdowns of the season last Friday to Logan Cowart (three receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns). Cowart (105 rushing yards) and fellow sophomore Colton Thomas (262 yards, one touchdown) are the only Yellow Jackets backs who have played in all eight games for the team. Braxton Cox (16 receptions for 363 yards and seven touchdowns) and Noah Finnegan (13 receptions for 111 yards) are the primary receivers for Rhinehardt. Clay County’s chief tacklers are Cowart (6.5), Owen Gibson (6.3), Chayton McClure (5.0), Colton Thomas (4.9) and Finnegan (4.3).
Pick: Andrews by 7.
Smoky Mountain 1-A
ROBBINSVILLE (6-2, 4-0) at CHEROKEE (3-6, 0-4)
Last week: Robbinsville did not play; Cherokee lost to Andrews, 41-30.
Last year: Robbinsville beat Cherokee, 50-20.
Notes: Rainy weather threw a lot of WNC football schedules for a loop this month. Few as much as Robbinsville. The Black Knights and Lane Millsaps (892 yards, seven touchdowns) played three games in 11 days between Oct. 5-16. And now they are coming off an open date for the second time in six weeks. The Graham County team was last in action Oct. 16 (a 49-14 home win over Hayesville) and has now won 13 consecutive SMC games. Ian Wiggins (478 yards, eight touchdowns) and Colby Hemphill (329 yards, five touchdowns) are other backs that take handoffs from Colton Millsaps (612 yards and five touchdowns with five interceptions). Lane Millsaps (13 receptions for 157 yards and one touchdown) and Kyler Brooks (11 receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown) have been his primary outlets. On the other side of the ball, defensive leaders are Paden Welch (9.3), Lane Millsaps (8.1), Chad McCoy (7.8), Brooks (7.5), Elijah Wachacha (7.3), Hemphill (5.4), Austin Hedrick (5.1), Chandler Jumper (4.8) and Reece Postell (4.6). Cherokee will counter with an offense that includes Tye Mintz (1,354 passing yards, 599 rushing yards and 19 combined touchdowns), Isaiah Evans (374 rushing yards, 197 receiving yards and three combined touchdowns), Jason McMillan (36 receptions for 558 yards and nine touchdowns), Holden Straughn (23 receptions for 250 yards) and Darius Blanton (20 receptions for 200 yards and two touchdowns). The Braves’ defense is fronted by Kennan Panther (12.8), Logan Teesateskie (11.9), Will Davis (7.2), Dodge Crowe-Moss (6.9), Mintz (6.0), Joaquin Gabriel Layno (5.0) and Anthony Toineeta (4.8).
Pick: Robbinsville by 14.
MURPHY (7-2, 3-1) at SWAIN COUNTY (6-3, 4-0)
Last week: Murphy beat Hayesville, 54-13; Swain County beat Rosman, 28-21.
Last year: Murphy beat Swain County, 38-14.
Notes: Twenty nine years was a good run. Murphy and Kadrian McRae (1,074 yards, 12 touchdowns) had annually played Swain County on the final Friday of the regular season since 1985. Not anymore. Smoky Mountain Conference athletic directors voted in May 2014 to go to a rotating schedule and the effects on this rivalry will be felt Friday. McRae surpassed 1,000 yards a week ago and it was the second-highest output, point-wise, of the season for a Bulldogs offense that has used multiple quarterbacks in Dalton Kent (950 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions) and Joey Curry (446 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions) along with a receiving corps made up of Anthony Conners (34 receptions for 500 yards and seven touchdowns), Bryce Clapsaddle (22 receptions for 309 yards) and Matthew Lovingood (18 receptions for 335 yards and three touchdowns). The defense is bolstered by Ozzy Corrales (12.0 tackles per game), Alex Seabolt (11.2), Cory Farmer (9.9), Adam Powell (8.8), Shannon Wilson (8.1) and Storm Worley (8.1). Brody Sitton (588 yards, nine touchdowns) has been Swain County’s biggest offensive contributor in recent weeks, but the Maroon Devils can also move with the ball with Trent Wright (438 yards and three touchdowns with six interceptions), Derek Fortner (334 yards, five touchdowns) and Jordan Cody (277 rushing yards, 166 receiving yards and one touchdown). Ross Ensley (10.3 tackles per game) and Issiah Bradley (6.7) have been stellar, defensively. Both programs are no strangers to success on a statewide level – Swain County has won seven NCHSAA championships, while Murphy has a half-dozen in its trophy case. Four years ago, each won state titles on the same December day which was the first-ever such double for WNC football. The Maroon Devils lead this all-time series, 36-33.
Pick: Swain County by 1.