Tuscola is on a rollMountaineers seek fourth straight win tonight against West Henderson
Coming off an emotional win in overtime against archrival Pisgah, the Tuscola varsity football team (3-5, 3-1 WNCAC) will return to their home turf tonight to take on the West Henderson Falcons (2-6, 1-3), who are coming off of their second win of the season, 34-24 against Brevard.
“West Henderson is a very sound offensive and defensive football team” said Tuscola Head Coach Brandon Allen. “They have good size at all positions and play very hard.”
The Mountaineers are the unquestionable favorite to win tonight, but will need to take extra care to avoid a post-rivalry game letdown. One example of this is Asheville’s shocking 34-24 loss to the Enka Jets in week 6, which came just one week after the Cougars staged an emotional 34-30 comeback win over archrival A.C. Reynolds.
Tuscola cannot afford such a letdown tonight because a fourth straight win is crucial to the Mountaineers’ chances of making the state playoffs—especially since they have to wrap up their season against the conference’s top two teams in East Henderson and Franklin.
“After you play a rivalry game, especially one of this magnitude, you have to come in on Monday and refocus, and that is tough” said Allen after last week’s game. “(West Henderson) is going to be an extremely important game for us and we want to come out and play better than we did (against Pisgah).”
Tuscola has steadily improved over the course of the season, so for them to play better than they did in the Pisgah game is a reasonable expectation.
Though the Mountaineers started the season 0-5, they have not lost a game by more than two touchdowns and their pass defense has improved significantly in the last couple of weeks.
Tuscola ranks second in the conference defensively, but has struggled a little more offensively, ranking fifth in the conference in that category. The Mountaineers seemed to find a little bit more of an offensive rhythm against Pisgah, but were still unable to score any points in the second half and the final touchdown of the first half came on special teams with Bryce Myers’ 93-yard kickoff return.
Those 24 points were also the second-least scored on the Black Bears this season, and if you take away the special teams score, it was the least scored on Pisgah’s defense all year.
On the surface, this looks concerning—but Tuscola has been able to effectively play ball control this year, squeezing the milk out of the clock en route to the end zone. Ultimately the number of points scored doesn’t mean much as long as you outscore the opponent.
West Henderson standouts Austin Owen, Joseph Mausy, and Tyler Gaither all scored second half touchdowns last week in order to lead the Falcons to a come-from-behind victory over Brevard and senior quarterback Brandon Letchworth has now thrown for over 1,000 yards this season.
“They have good speed in the skill positions and play extremely well in space,” Coach Allen said. “Their fullback is a big kid (5-11, 225) and runs very hard. If we don’t come out and play hard and very physical, West Henderson could be a very difficult task for us. We must play flawless this week!”
While there won’t be a trophy to win or a 10,000-plus crowd this week, a lot remains on the line for the Mountaineers. A playoff spot is within grasp and though it may be a further stretch, a conference championship is still not out of reach.
If Tuscola wants to think bigger than Haywood County, a win tonight is a good place to start. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at C.E. Weatherby Stadium.