MARION – Caleb Ferguson will camp out in your end zone, no stakes or tent necessary.
How to quantify what the 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior from Tuscola has done through two games?
As an individual, Ferguson’s 11 touchdowns (nine rushing, two receiving) are more than 21 entire teams in mountain football.
Ferguson and the Mountaineers have scored a Western North Carolina-best 117 points in two games and bring their Double-wing offense to the Titans’ doorstep on Friday.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“(Tuscola) is impressive on both sides of the ball,” McDowell coach Andy Morgan said.
“They really have some good-looking kids everywhere who execute that offense well. In our meetings, I compared them to some of the former South Point teams that I’ve seen. They’re not running the veer as much as South Point did, but they roll off the ball with really good linemen and their fullback is very comparable.
Those are some kind words for Ferguson and he’s worthy of them.
Ferguson has rushed for 290 yards and gets his handoffs from first-year starting quarterback Grayson Perkins (83 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions). Leading tackler Joe Napert (9.0 per game) gets behind the line of scrimmage a lot – the senior has made eight stops for a loss. Other key tacklers are John Medford (7.5), Taylor Austin (7.5), Jeremy Jacobs (7.0), Dylan Worley (7.0), Ferguson (7.0) and Bailee Ewart (6.5).
“The biggest thing for us is the defense really improved from Week 1 to Week 2,” Tuscola coach Tommy Pursley said.
“The defense has made some big strides. We have some things we need to clean up on offense, too. We got stopped a couple times (in last week’s 49-14 home win over Owen). We had three big penalties and they scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown. We’ve got to improve our focus, but I’m confident that all of it is stuff we can fix.”
Morgan embarked on his coaching career back in 1998. He was at McDowell for five years before also serving as an assistant at Roberson from 2005 to 2014.
Last Friday’s 22-17 win at Avery County was the first true between-the-lines win for Morgan and the Titans. They were outclassed in a 41-21 loss to R-S Central on Aug. 19 in Marion. The result of the game was later overturned after the Hilltoppers self-reported an ineligible player to the NCHSAA.
Ben Ballew passed for a career-high 160 yards and two touchdowns as the Titans overcame a nine-point halftime deficit last Friday in Newland.
Chase Justice accounted for 108 of Ballew’s yards and a 52-yard touchdown catch. Matthew Moss caught the second TD (7 yards) at the 11:23 mark of the fourth quarter. McDowell was able to hang on from there, even after trailing by nine points at halftime. The Titans are off to just their fourth 2-0 start to a football season since 2000.
Damon McNeely (9.5 tackles per game), Kaali Tobe (8.5) and Tyler Banks (6.0) are names to know on defense.
“Coach Morgan is I’m sure going to do a great job at McDowell. Any time there is a coaching change, you see some new enthusiasm,” Pursley said.
“We expect to see a very good football team Friday. We’re going to have a real battle on our hands.”
TUSCOLA AT MCDOWELL
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Pick: Tuscola by 14
2015: McDowell 35, Tuscola 20.
2000: McDowell 27, Tuscola 7.
1999: Tuscola 41, McDowell 7.
1998: Tuscola 23, McDowell 17.
1997: McDowell 22, Tuscola 8.
MORE ONLINE: The Citizen-Times will provide a live blog from Friday’s McDowell-Tuscola football game. Updates will begin shortly before kickoff at CITIZEN-TIMES.com/hshuddle.