Unless noted, all kickoffs are at 7:30 p.m. A full preview of Thursday’s Asheville High-Pisgah game can be found here.
ERWIN (1-1) at OOLTEWAH, Tenn. (1-1)
Last week: Erwin lost to Mountain Heritage, 58-31; Ooltewah beat Signal Mountain (Tenn.), 38-7.
Last year: Ooltewah beat Erwin, 48-7.
Notes: Even in defeat, Erwin senior Damien Ferguson put a big flag in the ground last Friday. Ferguson (522 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions) is believed to be only the second-ever Buncombe County quarterback to pass for 6,000 career yards. Ferguson (6,112 yards) is a three-year starter who relies mostly on the hands of Trey Martin (14 receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns), Kealin Goode (12 receptions for 133 yards and three touchdowns), C.J. Thompson (eight receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns) and Isaiah Poore (five receptions for 53 yards) this season. Poore (114 yards, two touchdowns) and Quentin Smith (84 yards, one touchdown) have fueled the Erwin rushing attack. Chris McDonald (7.5 tackles per game), Simeon Thompson (6.0), Kendell Dover (5.5) and Jackson Gouge (5.0) are the most active defenders for the Warriors. Last week’s 27-point home loss to Mountain Heritage was the most lopsided defeat at the hands of a local team for Erwin since 2009. Ooltewah is an eastern Tennessee school about 200 miles away and coached by Mac Bryan, who went 4-7 in his only season at Enka (2009).
Pick: Ooltewah by 7.
NORTH BUNCOMBE (0-2) at MOUNTAIN HERITAGE (2-0)
Last week: North Buncombe lost to Madison, 26-16; Mountain Heritage beat Erwin, 58-31.
Last year: Mountain Heritage beat North Buncombe, 26-7.
Notes: Mountain Heritage players chowed down on stomach-stretching portions of eggs and bacon Saturday morning at the popular Bubba’s Good Eats restaurant in Yancey County. If longtime coach Joey Robinson had his druthers, some humble pie would have been on the menu for a team breakfast, too. The Cougars and Justin Keener (167 yards, eight touchdowns) are the new No. 1 in the Citizen-Times Best of the West football rankings after last Friday’s rout of the previous team (Erwin) to hold that designation. Keener, who is a senior, either set or tied a school record with a half-dozen rushing touchdowns. Junior quarterback Trey Robinson (259 rushing yards, 237 passing yards and four touchdowns) winced a few times, but otherwise played through an ankle injury. He ran for 168 yards and threw for 121 more, allowing Mountain Heritage to make a 44-7 halftime lead stand. Junior Denton (177 yards, one touchdown) was the third Cougars player to rush for more than 100 yards in West Asheville. The Cougars and Cole Burleson (four receptions for 88 yards and one touchdown) are 2-0 for only the third time since 2000. Four players are averaging double-digits in tackles – Adam Shuford (15.5), Dathan Robinson (13.5), Corey Presnell (11.5) and Seth Randolph (10.5). North Buncombe got a pair of touchdown runs from Nick Lisenbee (111 yards, two touchdowns) last Friday and a 45-yard field goal off the foot of Johnny Laws. Dakota Vosburg (6.0 tackles per game) and Spencer Buckner (5.0) produce the most for the defense.
Pick: Mountain Heritage by 21.
OWEN (1-1) at REYNOLDS (0-2)
Last week: Owen lost to Tuscola, 49-14; Reynolds lost to Shelby, 35-14.
Last year: Reynolds beat Owen, 49-7.
Notes: Everything is greener in an environmentally-conscious world, isn’t it? The all-time count in this Buncombe County series isn’t that off-kilter, with Reynolds holding a 36-25 advantage. But Alex Flinn (176 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions) and the Rockets won have 10 of the last 11 games, and all but one of those victories (a 28-19 game in 2007) have come by double digits. Reynolds is winless ahead of Friday’s game at Dalton Stadium, but let’s keep things in perspective. The Rockets have fallen short against a couple 2-0 teams that are both state-ranked – West Forsyth (4-A) and three-time defending state champ Shelby (2-A). Reynolds was only behind 14-7 at halftime last Friday thanks to a touchdown pass from Nathan St. Onge (135 rushing yards, 61 passing yards and two combined touchdowns) to leading tackler Frank Torres (11.5 per game). Feature back Sean Jones (78 yards) did not play due to an illness, but has returned to practice this week. Along with Torres, the main defenders for the Rockets are Charlie Lehman (9.5), Will Israel (6.5), Chayce Plummer (6.5), Conor Sullivan (6.5) and Talon James (6.0). They will be preoccupied Friday with Owen standouts like Kendrick Weaver (183 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions) and Cyrus Hooper (123 yards, two touchdowns). Alex Huntsinger averages a team-high 6.0 tackles per game for the Warhorses, followed by Antonio McDowell (5.5), Kristian Michels (5.0), Weaver (4.5) and Saevion Gibbs (4.5).
Pick: Reynolds by 14.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN (2-0) at ENKA (0-2)
Last week: Smoky Mountain beat Swain County, 21-19; Enka lost to Pisgah, 46-7.
Last year: Smoky Mountain beat Enka, 28-21.
Notes: And it ain’t even close. Smoky Mountain senior Matthew Ridley (534 yards, four touchdowns) has 202 more rushing yards than the next-highest player in the mountains. Ridley is averaging 11.9 yards a carry and nearing his final total for the 2015 season (625 yards) for the first Mustangs team to go 2-0 since 2007. Six wins would assure the Jackson County program of its first winning season in 17 years. Naturally, more than one player has gotten Smoky Mountain this far – N.C. State baseball recruit Cole Hooper (250 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions) has distributed the ball to Austin Baumgarner (seven receptions for 44 yards), Tristen Kenyon (six receptions for 61 yards and one touchdown) and Conner Moore (four receptions for 72 yards). Kyle Bradley (8.5 tackles per game) spearheads the defense along with Moore (7.5), Devon Stephens (7.5), Baumgarner (6.0) and Michael Ashe (5.0). Enka senior Avery Holbrook (119 passing yards, 108 rushing yards and two combined touchdowns) connected with Dylan Sprouse (two receptions for 41 yards and one touchdown) for the Jets’ only touchdown last Friday. Chase Bennett (five receptions for 29 yards) has been Holbrook’s No. 1 target through two games. The Jets are looking to shed the longest losing streak in Buncombe County football (12 games).
Pick: Smoky Mountain by 10.
EAST RUTHERFORD (2-0) at ROBERSON (2-0)
Last week: East Rutherford beat North Gaston, 27-7; Roberson beat East Henderson, 55-7.
Last year: Roberson lost to East Rutherford, 17-13.
Notes: What a quarterback giveth, Tristan McAfee taketh away. The Roberson sophomore tied a WNC record with four interceptions last week. The NCHSAA single-game record is five. Speaking of sophomores, Ty Gossett (402 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions) is putting up stellar numbers as a 10th grader with Micah Jenkins (five receptions for 175 yards and one touchdown), Seth Hutzler (five receptions for 29 yards and one touchdown) and Barshia Young (four receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns) chasing down his passes. Logan Wells (17.0 tackles per game) continues to set the tone on defense along with Zach Myers (9.0), Greg Johnston (8.5), Kai Anthony (7.0) and Jordan McNeil (6.0). Roberson and East Rutherford have a common opponent – East Henderson. The Rams tagged the Eagles for a 48-point loss last Friday while Demetrius Mauney (251 yards, seven touchdowns) and the Cavaliers shut out East Henderson, 43-0, on Aug. 19. East Rutherford is averaging 296 rushing yards per game.
Pick: Roberson by 1.
TUSCOLA (2-0) at MCDOWELL (2-0)
Last week: Tuscola beat Owen, 49-14; McDowell beat Avery County, 22-17.
Last year: McDowell beat Tuscola, 35-20.
Notes: Voila! Caleb Ferguson makes things happen, and those things are touchdowns. Quantify what the Tuscola senior has done through two games? Ferguson’s 11 touchdowns (nine rushing, two receiving) are individually more than 21 entire teams in mountain football. He has rushed for 290 yards and first-year starter Grayson Perkins (83 touchdowns and one touchdown with no interceptions) quarterbacks an offense that has scored a WNC-high 117 points. Leading tackler Joe Napert (9.0 per game) has already made eight 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). Rookie head coach Andy Morgan and McDowell got their first true between-the-lines win last Friday. Ben Ballew passed for a career-high 160 yards and two touchdowns as the Titans overcame a nine-point halftime 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. Their 41-21 home loss to R-S Central later became a forfeit win when the Hilltoppers self-reported an ineligible player to the NCHSAA.
Pick: Tuscola by 14.
EAST HENDERSON (0-2) at HENDERSONVILLE (1-1)
Last week: East Henderson lost to Roberson, 55-7; Hendersonville beat West Henderson, 28-12.
Last year: Hendersonville beat East Henderson, 42-8.
Notes: Apple Festival weekend in Henderson County means a rivalry game is ripe for the picking. Hendersonville and Tykel Landrum (13 receptions for 223 yards and one touchdowns) can become county champions for the second time in three years with a win Friday at Dietz Field and another Sept. 9 at North Henderson. The Bearcats and Alex Williford (346 passing yards, 82 rushing yards and four combined touchdowns) lead this all-time series, 28-13-1, and have won five of the last six meetings. Williford and Landrum are both juniors, while senior Demetrius Smith (10 receptions for 88 yards) has also proven his worth on the offensive side of the ball. Through two games, the leading tacklers for Hendersonville are Blaine Sharpe (10.5 per game), Taerek Daniel (10.0), Korbit Collins (9.5), Landrum (8.0), Cole McMurray (7.0), Samuel Lucas (6.0) and Shawn Pearce (6.0). East Henderson has only scored seven points in two games (senior Dekel Robinson’s 65-yard interception return last Friday in Skyland).
Pick: Hendersonville by 28.
NORTH HENDERSON (1-1) at SWAIN COUNTY (0-2)
Last week: North Henderson beat Polk County, 19-14; Swain County lost to Smoky Mountain, 21-19.
Last year: Swain County beat North Henderson, 28-21.
Notes: Make yourself comfortable. Former Western Carolina University quarterback Justin Clark now belongs to a different fraternity – mountain football coaches with a career win. Sophomore quarterback Kalin Ensley (268 passing yards, 116 rushing yards and two combined touchdowns) is the frontrunner in two offensive categories for North Henderson. When he drops back to throw, Darren Lammons (16 receptions for 180 yards and one touchdown), Colby Thomas (five receptions for 61 yards) and Miquel Lammons (four receptions for 26 yards) are most likely on the receiving end. Swain County hasn’t started a season 0-3 since 2007. Brodie Bowman (321 passing yards, 65 rushing yards and two combined touchdowns), Dylan Smith (86 rushing yards), Seth Parker (seven receptions for 181 yards and one touchdown) and Brier Younce (six receptions for 96 yards) have been the big producers for the offense. The defense takes its cues from Dawson Lowe (6.5 tackles per game), Logan Loftis (6.0), Wren Gunter (5.5) and Will Paul (5.0).
Pick: Swain County by 1.
MADISON (1-1) at ROSMAN (0-1)
Last week: Madison beat North Buncombe, 26-16; Rosman lost to Brevard, 41-7.
Last year: Rosman beat Madison, 37-7.
Notes: Look closely, the blue on Madison’s uniforms extends to the collar. Razzle dazzle is less important to Ben Rhodarmer than work ethic, and the first-year coach sees unmistakable signs of it on a daily basis. The Patriots lost to West Henderson on a last-second field goal Aug. 19, but reclaimed the Juice Jug with last week’s 10-point victory at North Buncombe. The rivalry game was tied 7-7 at halftime until Colby Edwards (211 passing yards, 119 rushing yards and four combined touchdowns) and Madison broke away. Derek Gonzalez (332 yards, two touchdowns) and Elan Littrell (10 receptions for 130 yards) have been other offensive leaders for the Patriots, while the defense has been shored up by Keegan Foley (14 tackles per game), Clark Gray (9.5), Austin Shelton (9.0), Logan Roberts (8.5), Dakota Surrett (8.0) and Devin Nash (7.5). Neil Tesnow scored the only touchdown in Rosman’s season opener, while the defense fed largely off Will Partin (13 tackles),
Pick: Madison by 7.
MITCHELL (2-0) at ANDREWS (1-1)
Last week: Mitchell beat Cherokee, 21-0; Andrews beat Tellico Plains (Tenn.), 18-13.
Last year: Mitchell beat Andrews, 49-0.
Notes: D up. At times, defense has been an unappreciated element of Mitchell and Trevor Self (7.5 tackles per game) winning 16 of their last 18 games. Three of those victories have been shutouts. Along with Self, the Mountaineers’ primary defenders are Ben Robinson (7.0), Jacob Yelton (7.0), Landon Miller (5.5), Jesse Presley (5.0), Jesse Pitman (4.5) and Brody Smith (4.5). Ben Young (216 passing yards, 172 rushing yards and three combined touchdowns) has yet to throw an interception, and once again the junior leads his team in two offensive categories. His favorite receivers so far have been Brody Smith (seven receptions for 116 yards and one touchdown), Alex McKinney (four receptions for 62 yards and one touchdown) and Jesse Pitman (four receptions for 36 yards). Another Ben, Ben Robinson (128 yards), is averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Andrews senior Taylor Parker (242 yards, three touchdowns) is the second-leading rusher in the Smoky Mountain Conference. Matt Barton (105 yards and one touchdown with one interception) has completed all but two of his passes to Kylan Thompson (four receptions for 87 yards and one touchdown. The Wildcats and first-year coach James Phillips won their first game together last Friday.
Pick: Mitchell by 14.
AVERY COUNTY (0-2) at WATAUGA (1-1)
Last week: Avery County lost to McDowell, 22-17; Watauga beat Ashe County, 78-48.
Last year: Watauga beat Avery County, 34-13.
Notes: Quarterbacks do more than ever in modern offenses, and therefore have never been less expendable. Avery County is the latest WNC team to suffer an injury at that position – Van McCollum (92 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions) had to leave last Friday’s game with a hurt leg. Christian Hicks (77 yards, one touchdown) is the Vikings’ top rusher by a hair and came in for McCollum against McDowell. Brett Smith (eight receptions for 61 yards) is once again the team’s most productive receiver, and the defense has been carried by Steven Sanchez (8.0 tackles per game), Blake Williams (8.0), Cole Singleton (6.0) and Timothy Tolley (5.0). Payback has been a long time coming in this High Country rivalry – Avery County hasn’t beaten Watauga since 2011.
Pick: Watauga by 14.
POLK COUNTY (1-1) at R-S CENTRAL (1-1)
Last week: Polk County lost to North Henderson, 19-14; R-S Central beat Stuart Cramer, 6-0.
Last year: R-S Central beat Polk County, 31-13.
Notes: Squeeze that ball tight. Two untimely fumbles inside the 10-yard line were among the mistakes for Polk County in last Friday’s home loss to North Henderson. Dillon Overholt (178 rushing yards, 144 passing yards and five combined touchdowns) and the Wolverines return to Rutherford County for the second time this season – they beat Chase, 34-28, in double overtime on Aug. 19. Josh Chupp (five receptions for 32 yards) is the only Polk County player with multiple catches. R-S Central beat McDowell, 41-21, back on Aug. 19 but later had to forfeit the game due to an ineligible player.
Pick: Polk County by 3.
CHOCTAW CENTRAL, Miss. (0-2) at CHEROKEE (1-1)
Last week: Choctaw Central lost to Union (Miss.), 30-0; Cherokee lost to Mitchell, 21-0.
Last year: Choctaw Central beat Cherokee, 21-20.
Notes: Imagine the Mintz family’s backyard games of catch. Cherokee fans don’t have to try too hard – they see it every Friday. Braves freshman Cade Mintz (six receptions for 52 yards) and Anthony Toineeta (six receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown) have each caught a half-dozen balls for Mintz’s older brother, junior Tye Mintz (249 passing yards, 88 rushing yards and two combined touchdowns. Isaiah Evans (223 yards, two touchdowns) is off to a good start, rushing-wise, while the defense has been buoyed by Byron Locust (9.0 tackles per game), Holden Straughan (7.5) and Dawson Wilnoty (7.5). Cherokee and Choctaw Central are the only American Indian high schools east of the Mississippi River and play football annually. The Braves hold a slim all-time edge in this “Battle of the Nations” series, 10-9.
Pick: Cherokee by 7.
HAYESVILLE (0-2) at UNION COUNTY, Ga. (1-0)
Last week: Hayesville lost to Copper Basin (Tenn.) 36-7; Union County beat Gilmer (Ga.), 36-16.
Last year: The two teams did not play.
Notes: Establishing a connection is key. Hayesville senior Kyle Rhinehardt (203 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions) threw his first touchdown of the season to sophomore Alan Gillis (eight receptions for 94 yards and one touchdown) as time expired in the first half last Friday. The Yellow Jackets and Dalton Taylor (10.0 tackles per game) face their third consecutive out-of-state opponent Friday. Other key tacklers have been Thomas Cothren (6.5) and Zach Raxter (4.0). Union County has a 61-man roster that includes Cole Wright (164 passing yards, 126 rushing yards and two combined touchdowns). These schools last squared off in 2009 (a 41-26 win for Union County).
Pick: Union County by 10.
MURPHY (1-1) at CAROLINA WILDCATS, S.C. (1-1)
Last week: Murphy lost to Franklin, 42-7; Carolina Wildcats beat New Covenant, 20-0.
Last year: Murphy beat Carolina Wildcats, 43-8.
Notes: It is there for the taking. Four-time defending 1-A Eastern Regional champion Plymouth is 0-2, which means the chase for a state title (won by Plymouth in 2015) could be as wide-open as ever. Last Friday’s showing had to be discouraging for one of the many potential contenders — Murphy and Joey Curry (226 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions) only had seven first downs against Franklin. The Bulldogs and playmakers like Kadrian McRae (69 yards, two touchdowns) and Colton Posey (seven receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns) should get a respite with this trip over the state line. Cory Farmer (13.5) has been setting the pace for the Bulldogs defense along with Adam Powell (10.0), Chase Roberts (8.0), Cody Cantrell (6.5) and Joe Deetz (6.5).
Pick: Murphy by 21.
ASHEVILLE SCHOOL (0-0) at TENNESSEE SILVERBACKS, Tenn. (0-2), 4 p.m.
Last week: Asheville School did not play; Tennessee Silverbacks lost to Asheville Saints, 20-16.
Last year: The two teams did not play.
Notes: Tee it up. When Asheville School senior Hank Boyd goes to kick off Saturday at Arbogast Field, he and the Blues will be the final WNC team to play their season opener. Rashad Morrison (810 rushing yards, 178 receiving yards and nine combined touchdowns in 2015), Ahmad Galimore (42 receptions for 654 yards and seven touchdowns), Chris Amoroso (19 receptions for 264 yards and two touchdowns, 7.6 tackles a game) and J.P. Schill (7.8 tackles per game) are among 16 returning starters. Fisher Howard (7.2) and Titus Morrison (6.3) were other essential pieces of last year’s 3-7 team. This game was originally scheduled for Friday night in Johnson City, Tenn., but moved due to facility issues for the Silverbacks.
Pick: Asheville School by 14.