ASHEVILLE – David Burdette’s debut was a little bit of everything all rolled into one.
Devon Davidson passed for 333 yards and three touchdowns, helping Asheville High overcome a 20-point deficit in the second half. All of it went down in one of Western North Carolina football’s toughest road venues.
And even then, Burdette’s first head-coaching win hung in the balance until a short field goal from Franklin went wide with 5.2 seconds to go in a 29-28 nonconference game.
“I have no idea how we won that football game,” Burdette said.
“I have so much respect for the Franklin coaching staff and their kids. There were so many swings tonight. Our kids just found a way. Every since I took this job (in February), we’ve talked about heart. We really had to dig down for this one.”
Burdette isn’t lying. The Cougars (1-0) were down 28-8 inside the Panther Pit with 4 minutes and 36 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Corey Clement (75 yards) and Makaius Brewer (38) were on the receiving end of Davidson touchdown passes to pull Asheville within striking distance. Facing fourth down and 10, Ahmad Shivers caught a short ball in the flats, and shook everyone in his path for a 23-yard score with 5:05 to play.
Shivers had also accounted for Asheville’s first touchdown on a 3-yard carry late in the first half.
Davis Brooks was a quick thinker on the ensuing extra point – rather than try to make the best of a bad snap, he scooped up the football and threw a 2-point conversion pass to Brewer, who had four receptions for 129 yards.
“I love my team, I’d go to battle for them any day,” Brewer said.
“I’m so blessed to be around them every day. This is a good win, now we’ve got to get back to work for Newton-Conover (next week at home).”
Friday was the first look at Asheville in a spread offense, the most notable change that Burdette has made since replacing Danny Wilkins. Davidson, who is a senior, completed 19 of his 36 passes.
His counterpart at Franklin, Andrew Moore was 13-for-23 for 171 yards. Moore also scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper. Fellow junior Brock Kloeppel had 29 carries for 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns (1 and 6 yards).
It was anybody’s game in the final three minutes.
Franklin drove deep into Asheville territory before the Cougars’ Daniel Green made an interception with 2:21 to go. Asheville fumbled the ball right back to the Panthers (0-1).
There was then a potential touchdown pass dropped in the end zone and a 25-yard field goal did not connect.
“Give Asheville credit, they made the plays when it counted,” Franklin coach Josh Brooks said.
“All you want is an opportunity to win and we gave ourselves that. Our kids fought until the end. We’re a young team and hopefully we can learn from this.”