ASHEVILLE – Abracadabra.
J.D. Dinwiddie coached North Henderson to its first winning football season since 2000 last fall. He’s working his magic at Roberson now – the Rams (7-2, 3-1) have more than doubled their number of wins from 2015 (three). Not only that, it’s late October, and they’re in the mix for a Mountain Athletic Conference championship.
Thursday’s live TV game on WMYA-TV (40) is the next logical step if Roberson wants to continue its progression.
Kickoff between the Rams and Reynolds (7-2, 4-0) is set for 7 p.m. from the Rockets’ Dalton Stadium.
“Our kids have never been in this position, especially the varsity in their high school careers,” Dinwiddie said. “Some of our coaches, too. it’s a good opportunity to compete for a conference championship. Nobody has given us much credit, but we like being under the radar.
“Everyone wants to go ahead and give the title to Reynolds just because they are Reynolds,” he said. “Reynolds has a good history and a good tradition. (Coach Shane Laws) does a really good job and we know that we’re going to have to play a really good game. Hopefully it’s a competitive and exciting game for all the fans out there.”
Roberson senior Logan Wells remains the leading tackler in Western North Carolina. Fifteen of the senior’s stops have been for a loss. And check out the numbers for Greg Johnston (11.1 tackles a game), a junior with 28 tackles for a loss and 16 sacks. Zach Myers (9.6), Jordan McNeill (8.3 tackles per game), Kai Anthony (5.3), Seth Rowe (4.8), Tristen McAfee (4.6), Mikal Timpson (4.4) and Dayquan Watkins (4.1) are others who have stepped up.
The Rams’ hurry-up offense is run by sophomore Ty Gossett (1,714 yards and 13 touchdowns with 14 interceptions), whose supporting cast includes Lejuan Rush (362 yards, seven touchdowns), Shaquille Gist (327 yards, six touchdowns), Micah Jenkins (31 receptions for 473 yards and two touchdowns), Barshia Young (27 receptions for 471 yards and five touchdowns) and Davis Phillips (19 receptions for 210 yards and one touchdown).
The MAC officially recognizes a 3-A and 4-A champion in every team sport. Both Reynolds (3-A) and Roberson (4-A) have already assured themselves of either a piece, or in the Rams’ case, an outright title in their classifications.
The Rockets have won eight of the last nine meetings between the two largest high schools in Buncombe County, including last year’s 49-6 blowout in Skyland.
“For a while, they’ve had guys who can play (at Roberson),” Reynolds coach Shane Laws said.
“Coach Dinwiddie has got everyone going in the same direction now and he and his staff do a good job preparing them. They are certainly a good football team on both sides of the ball. It’s certainly going to be a challenge. It’s like I told our kids earlier this week, we are blessed to be at A.C. Reynolds and play in a lot of big games. This is another opportunity to play in a game that matters so lets enjoy it. I’m not so much worried about whether you play hard as whether you play well.”
The Rockets have won 14 straight MAC games dating back to 2014, the large majority of them by double digits. Frank Torres made 11 tackles in the first shutout of the season for the defense — last Friday’s 57-0 game at McDowell. Conor Sullivan (eight tackles), Charlie Lehman (seven), Eli Hembree (five), Kejuan Watkins (five), Caleb Becker (five), Tyler Diaz (five) and Andrew McKay (five).
Reynolds is averaging exactly 42.0 points a game with Nathan St. Onge (879 passing yards, 806 rushing yards and 18 combined touchdowns) at the controls. Weapons around the junior are Keyal Talbert (519 rushing yards, 312 receiving yards and nine combined touchdowns), Sean Jones (406 yards, six touchdowns), Rmani Lynch (27 receptions for 373 yards and three touchdowns), Kaedin Robinson (16 receptions for 233 yards and three touchdowns).
Roberson at Reynolds
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Pick: Reynolds by 10.
Following is a look at the last five football games between Reynolds and Roberson. The Rockets lead the all-time series, 38-16-1.
2015: Reynolds 49, Roberson 6.
2014: Reynolds 42, Roberson 13.
2013: Reynolds 37, Roberson 17.
2012: Reynolds 21, Roberson 18.
2011: Roberson 27, Reynolds 10.
COMING THURSDAY: The Citizen-Times will provide a live blog from the Reynolds-Roberson football game. Updates should begin shortly before kickoff at CITIZEN-TIMES.com/hshuddle.