Pisgah’s lethal weapons ready for Yellow JacketsHayesville (2-1) at Pisgah (2-1)
CANTON — The injury bug hit the Pisgah varsity football team hard last week in its game against Erwin. Senior split end, defensive back, punter and kick returner Jesse Anderson sustained a sprained ankle and will be sidelined for an indefinite period of time.
Then more bad news hit the Black Bears camp on Monday. Senior running back and linebacker Dustin Messer’s high school football career was over when an MRI revealed a torn posterior cruciate knee ligament in his left knee.
However, Pisgah Head Coach Brett Chappell’s Black Bears did not have a lot of time to come to grips with the injuries to Anderson and Messer.
He had to quickly refocus his team on tonight’s worthly opponent.
Pisgah hosts at 7:30 p.m. on the sacred acre of Memorial Stadium the 2-1 Hayesville Yellow Jackets in its final non-conference tune-up before starting into the WNC Athletic Conference in two weeks.
“The big thing for us is to come out of this non-conference game healthy,” said Chappell. “Unfortunately, the injury bug hit us last Friday night in a big way. Certainly it affected the outcome with losing two starters like that, and having to put subs in who have not had the reps the other guys had. I thought our kids did a pretty good job rallying when those injuries happen.
“But we have to move on and focus on a good Hayesville team. Coach Hughes has done a really good job getting the school’s basketball and baseball players to come out and play football. Hayesville will put some athletes on the field. We feel like we are going to be able to play with them up front. We feel like that maybe an advantage for us. So as we go into (tonight’s) game, looking to get that third win of the season and also looking to come out of it healthy. Next week we are open and then we open the conference with East Henderson.”
The major question mark for Pisgah is not replacing two injured seniors. Rather how the Black Bears’ defense will respond after having their egos hurt in the loss to a talented Erwin team.
The Black Bears had surrendered just seven points going into the game with the Warriors. But allowed 46 points to the Warriors, which raised their average points per game from 3.5 to 17.7.
“I think that if you look at it the advantage for us is up front with our big boys, we will be alright if those kids can continue to play well. That group held Erwin’s running back under a 100 yards rushing. I think that our rush defense is doing a very good job.
“Obviously facing a team like Erwin with all the speed posed some problems for us in open space. Hayesville will be similar in that aspect as they will spread it around and try to get it in their athletes’ hands in open space. Certainly we hope we can make some plays out there in the open field on defense and continue to make really good tackles.”
However, through the first three games, Pisgah has turned the ball over eight times (four interceptions and lost four fumbles). The Black Bears have also been flagged a staggering total of 35 times for 315 yards, which averages out to 11.6 flags for 105 yards per game.
“We have to limit our mistakes and we will,” said Chappell. “The kids are working hard every week in practice. They are getting better. As for the penalities, that will improve as we go through the season. But I am not going to tell my kids to back off or play differently. I love the way my kids play aggressive football. But we do have to clean up the mistakes and we will.”
With Messer out for the season, sophomore Jesse Martinez will have to fill the cleats rushing the ball and with Anderson out for at least tonight’s game with Hayesville, senior quarterback McKinley Brown and senior wide receiver Hunter Wike have to pick up the slack passing the ball.
In the first three games, Martinez has rushed for 126 yards on 25 carries (5.04 ypc) and two TDs. The young running back has shown glimpses of his quickness, skill and vision when carrying the football. He’ll get more chances to show his stuff with Messer out.
When Pisgah goes to the air, Brown and Wike, who is coming off a career-high game against Erwin in receiving yards (195), TD receptions (3) and receptions (8), emerged as a lethal combination for the Black Bears.
Brown has completed 56.4 percent of his passes (35-for-62) for 538 yards with five scoring strikes, while Wike has hauled in 12 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns.
Three of Wike’s five touchdown receptions have been more than 50 yards (83, 57, 63, 18, 14 yards).
The Brown to Wike combination has accounted for 65.7 percent of the passing yards and all five TD passes.
Hayesville started the season with wins over Towns (Ga.) County (20-0), Copper (Tenn.) Basin (47-7) before getting thumped at Rabun (Ga.) County last week, 55-7.
This could be a long night on the turf of Memorial Stadium for the visitors from Clay County.