ASHEVILLE – Asheville High football coach David Burdette leaned back in his chair and watched the game film with amusement.
Reynolds took not one, but two pages out of the Cougars’ bag of trickery with a couple hook-and-lateral plays last Friday.
Burdette’s amusement quickly wore off when he saw how the Rockets and Nathan St. Onge (648 passing yards, 497 rushing yards and 12 combined touchdowns) overcame a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Erwin in overtime, 49-48.
“I wasn’t shocked when they did that,” Burdette said of the comeback.
“What makes it impressive is they did it against Erwin. Still, I wouldn’t expect anything less. You hope maybe they have a hangover from a game like that, but we expect everything they’ve got on Friday.”
“Asheville, Erwin and Reynolds have been the top dogs these last six or seven years,” he said.
“You always know those games are going to be a little special. You’re going to get the best game out of those teams when you play. And we’re going to give them our best game. It’s been that way since I got here (as an assistant coach) in 1995. It doesn’t matter if both teams are really strong or one side is down. Whether it’s our JV or varsity guys, I tell them all the time that you’re only guaranteed four of these (games against Reynolds). You can’t take that for granted.”
Friday’s kickoff at Asheville is at 7 p.m.
Many amateur and professional pundits consider this the best rivalry in Buncombe County football and it’s easy to see why.
The Cougars have won 448 games since 1955 and the Rockets are second with 431. No other Buncombe program has over 400 wins during that time span.
On a grander scale, Reynolds has three state championships in the last 17 years (1999, 2002 and 2009), while Asheville ended an 83-year drought with its NCHSAA 3-A title run in 2005.
The Rockets have won 11 consecutive Mountain Athletic Conference games dating back to 2014. The MAC officially recognizes a 3-A and 4-A champion in every team sport, and last year was the first time in 11 years that Asheville didn’t win a conference football title. The Cougars’ consistency hardly ends there. Last week’s 34-12 win over Winston-Salem Carver snapped the first three-game losing streak during a regular season for Asheville since 1987.
Burdette was hired back in February to replace the winningest coach in school history, Danny Wilkins (162 victories). Wilkins is now part of the WWNC 570 AM radio team that will be providing coverage for Friday’s game.
“Neither one of our records are probably where we want them to be,” Reynolds coach Shane Laws said.
“But I don’t care what anyone says. I’ve seen the film, and Asheville is Asheville. I expect another crazy game. Practice has been good this week. For us, it’s not so much mental. You are always going to get up for Asheville. It’s more physical, we really exerted a lot against Erwin.”
Cougars senior Devon Davidson (912 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions) looks like he is about to become a 1,000-yard passer for the second straight year with the help of Makaius Brewer (31 receptions for 359 yards and two touchdowns), Dana Campbell (17 receptions for 188 yards) and DeAndre Gaskin (12 receptions for 135 yards).
Ahmad Shivers (379 yards, six touchdowns) is grinding out 4.3 yards per carry. And the defense has been guided by Taquandre Bates (10.6 tackles a game), Micah Robertson (8.4), Taevon Edgerton (7.0), Andrew Leota (7.0) and Kaejan Griffin (7.0).
Leota is a junior defensive lineman who has scholarship offers from Duke, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
St. Onge and the Rockets are riding a four-game winning streak after back-to-back losses to start the season. St. Onge threw for a career-high 353 yards a week ago. He and backup Alex Flinn (222 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions) have spread the ball around to Rmani Lynch (18 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns), Keyal Talbert (15 receptions for 239 yards) and Kaedin Robinson (10 receptions for 166 yards and one touchdown).
Other rushing threats are Talbert (328 yards, seven touchdowns) and Sean Jones (242 yards, three touchdowns). Asheville has won five of its last seven meetings with Reynolds and leads the overall series, 20-15.
REYNOLDS AT ASHEVILLE
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Pick: Reynolds by 7.
Following is a look at the last five football games between Asheville High and Reynolds. The Cougars lead the overall series, 20-15.
2015: Reynolds 54, Asheville 21.
2014: Asheville 27, Reynolds 14.
2013: Asheville 27, Reynolds 17.
2012: Asheville 34, Reynolds 30.
2011: Asheville 35, Reynolds 29.
COMING FRIDAY: The Citizen-Times will provide a live blog from Friday’s Asheville-Reynolds game. Updates will begin shortly before kickoff at CITIZEN-TIMES.com/hshuddle.