Pisgah meets Franklin in WNCAC showdown tonight in ‘The Pit’
CANTON — The Pisgah varsity football team’s road to the WNC Athletic Conference championship goes to one of the toughest venues in the mountains — The Pit at Frankin High School.
And tonight’s game between the visiting Black Bears and the undefeated Panthers, which is ranked second in Class 2-A, should be doozy.
Pisgah rides into the Panther Pit with a 4-1 overall record, 4-0 for playoff purposes and 1-0 in the WNCAC to battle 5-0 Franklin.
“Practices have been really good and I believe our kids have that sense of urgency,” said Pisgah head Coach Brett Chappell. “We understand the importance of this game. It’s a big game. But we also know it’s not going to dictate what the rest of the conference season holds for us.
“Franklin was the preseason favorite to win the conference title and rightly so. They have lived up to that billing. Hopefully, we have prepared well enough to do the right things and to make some good plays (tonight) and return home with a win.”
Franklin scores 38 points a game and its vaunted rushing attack is led by Jeremiah Young (902 yards, 13 touchdowns) and Luke Keener (653 yards and five TDs).
However, as good as the Panthers’ ground game has been, imagine if they had standout Marquel Manning, who rushed for 2,364 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2012. He tore a medial collateral ligament and suffered damage to an anterior cruciate ligament and a bone bruise in Franklin’s 41-17 season opener with Franklin.
“We have to slow down their rushing game,” said Chappell. “Obviously, the big thing they do well is run the football. (Jeremiah) Young in his last three games has carried it 28 to 30 times and is averaging right at 200 yards a game. That in itself tells you what they got up front and how good they are when they have the football.
“They are very solid in what they do. Franklin is about 70-30 run to pass ratio. Their scheme fits the kind of kids they have and they have stuck to over the past 10 to 12 years. This should be a great ball game, one that the defenses are going to have to play really well and that seems to be one of the stronger sides of our team right now the defensive side.”
With the exception of the Erwin game, Pisgah’s defense has been outstanding this season. Including the 46 points it gave up to the Warriors, the Black Bears are allowing 13.4 points a game. Excluding the Erwin game, Chappell’s defense is allowing 5.25 point per contest.
Franklin’s defense is allowing 16.4 points per game. The unit did give up 31 points to T.C. Roberson, but scored 35 points to beat the Rams in its second game of the season.
Pisgah senior McKinley Brown, who tossed a career-best four TDs against East Henderson last Friday, has thrown for 980 yards and 13 touchdowns. His favorite receivers have been seniors Hunter Wike (15 catches for 388 yards and seven TDs) and Jesse Anderson (23 receptions for 322 yards and six TDs).
However, through the first four games, the Black Bears have been slow developing an effective rushing attack.
But that missing ground game may have been found last Friday night against the Eagles, when senior Vadrey Crouch, one of the leaders on the defense, rushed five times for 115 yards and the Black Bears finished with a season-high 264 yards on the ground.
“(Tonight) will be an incredible atmosphere for a high school football game,” said Chappell. “We have to be able to do a good job controlling our emotions and let the game come to us. I feel good about where we are at and the kids are prepared for this game. We have a solid game plan and now we have to go out and execute it. It will also be a chess match between the coaching staffs. They are going to make some adjustments and we are going to have to come back and make some adjustments.”
Franklin has won four of the last five games in this series. But just last week Pisgah snapped a three-game losing streak to East Henderson, which also had won seven of the last 10 games against the Black Bears.
Franklin has Pisgah’s number. But so did East Henderson.
The magic season continues as Chappell’s boys find a way to stun the second-ranked Franklin Panthers in front of a sellout, standing-room only Panther Pit.
Pisgah 28, Franklin 27