Mountaineers get a ‘much-needed’ win for homecomingTuscola explodes for 28 points in second half
It was a tale of two halves this past Friday night at C.E. Weatherby Stadium as the Tuscola Varsity Football team overcame a first half scare from the Brevard Blue Devils to pull away with a monumental 42-13 victory.
After the Mountaineers received the opening kickoff, things got off to a rocky start when fullback Ben Greene fumbled on the first play from scrimmage.
This allowed Brevard to start their first drive just inside of Tuscola territory, but the Mountaineer defense rose to the occasion and forced a quick three-and-out. Tuscola struck gold on its next possession with a 77-yard drive that was capped by a 36-yard touchdown run from quarterback Woody Cornwell.
Following the successful PAT, the Mountaineers led 7-0 at the 6:54 mark of the first quarter.
Brevard’s next drive stalled at the Tuscola 26 with a turnover on downs, but the Mountaineers gave the Blue Devils a second chance when Cornwell fumbled and Brevard defensive lineman William McDaris recovered at the Tuscola 27.
From there, quarterback Hank Smith connected with Kevin Borgia for a 27 yard touchdown pass that tied the game at seven following Isaac Bingle’s PAT.
The Mountaineers and Blue Devils exchanged unproductive possessions for the majority of the second quarter until Cornwell connected with Adam Chambers for a 25 yard touchdown pass that capped a 72-yard drive with 1:28 remaining in the half. The PAT gave Tuscola a 14-7 lead.
The Blue Devils came roaring back however after a short kickoff by Adam Silvers gave them excellent field position at their own 48 yard line. Smith connected with Borgia on a couple of pass plays that landed them at the Tuscola 10 and after a pass interference call against the Mountaineers moved the ball to the 5, Smith hit Anthony Benjamin in the end zone at the 34 second mark.
Tuscola was able to keep momentum on their side, however, when Levi Duffield blocked Bingle’s PAT to keep the Mountaineers ahead 14-13 at halftime.
“Any time you can keep momentum or gain it, whether it is just by one point or seven I think it makes a huge difference” said Tuscola Head Coach Brandon Allen of the block. “That gave the boys some confidence — even though it was small, we went into halftime with the lead, and I think we made some good adjustments at halftime that really catapulted us through the second half.”
While Emily Hooper was being crowned homecoming queen on the field, the coaching staff was busy in the locker room.
“I felt like Coach Rhinehart and the defensive staff went in and made some good adjustments to try to slow them down a little bit,” said Coach Allen. “They were trying to take advantage of our penetration, and I thought (Brevard Head Coach Jeff) Bailey did a good job with that. Offensively, we went in and sat down with our guys because this was brand new stuff to us. We had to sure up a few things and I think it started clicking a little better for us in the second half.”
These adjustments worked well for the Tuscola, enabling them to shut down the Brevard offense for the remainder of the night.
On their first possession of the second half, the Mountaineers put together a 68-yard drive that was capped by a 28-yard touchdown run by Greene, putting Tuscola up 21-13 following the PAT.
The Mountaineers were unable to make anything happen on their next possession, but their defense made up for it when Jon Martinez picked off Smith and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to give Tuscola a 28-13 lead following the PAT in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
Cornwell scored his second rushing touchdown of the night on Tuscola’s next possession shortly after completing a 31-yard pass to Eric Sayas that set up the score with 6:23 remaining in the game.
Cornwell’s feet also played a role in the Mountaineers’ final scoring drive when he rushed 36 yards to the Brevard 25.
After a quick 16-yard pass to Damon McDaniels at the two yard line, Greene punched it in the end zone with just over a minute to go in the game. The PAT sealed the final score at 42-13.
Despite the 29 point win, not everything was pretty for Tuscola. The Mountaineers fumbled the ball 10 times during the game, thankfully recovering all but two. Most of these fumbles came in the first half on snaps between the center and quarterback, prompting the coaching staff to consider making a change at halftime but in the end they chose to stick with Cornwell, who refused to let them down.
“I thought Woody did a great job,” said Coach Allen. “I thought he rose to the occasion, showed his maturity and character, and played a tremendous second half.”
Besides the fumbles, special teams and pass defense were also sub-par for the Mountaineers. They will need to improve in these areas if they want to pick up a second win at North Henderson next week.
“I know that North Henderson has a tremendous offense and throws the football all over the field,” Coach Allen said. “So that is one of the things that we’ve really got to work on. We gave up too many long kickoff returns tonight and a couple of pretty good punt returns. We also have to get better at what we’re doing offensively — we have to clean up a few things, and hopefully we can come out and execute much cleaner in the first half instead of trying to do it all in the second half.”
The Tuscola faithful can (and should) celebrate the first win of the Allen era, but there is a long road ahead which leads through the northern part of Henderson County and Canton before the Mountaineers return to C.E. Weatherby again on October 12th.
With the win, Tuscola improves to 1-1 in the WNC Athletic Conference and 1-5 overall while Brevard drops to 0-2 in the WNCAC and 0-6 overall.