Tuscola-Swain County meet for the first time since 1984Mountaineers have never loss to the Maroon Devils in two tries
It really isn’t a stretch to say it has been easy for both Tuscola and Swain County to prepare for tonight’s non-conference football showdown in Bryson City.
Both the Mountaineers and the Maroon Devils have tenacious defenses, both teams have been successful since the beginning of the season running the football and both team’s offenses operate out of the split-back veer offense.
So, the key to success for tonight’s game, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. from Swain County Memorial Stadium, will be which team’s split-back veer offense performs the best.
It will also be the first time the two storied programs have met on the football field since 1984 (Tuscola holds the all-time series lead, 2-0).
“We are very similar teams, especially on the offensive side of the ball,” said Tuscola Head Coach Brandon Allen. “Obviously, Swain County has been doing it a lot longer. If you want to talk to somebody about the split-back veer offense, they are one of the best in the nation. Swain’s record speaks for itself. They play the game the way it is supposed to be played. I think both teams will see a lot of similar things, but I am also sure each team will have their little wrinkles trying to get a leg up.”
Tonight’s game will be Tuscola’s final non-conference game and Coach Allen’s Mountaineers will be seeking a win against a battle tested Swain County squad. A win will propel the Mountaineers to 3-1 overall and 3-0 for playoff purposes, before starting into the WNC Athletic Conference slate next week. But Allen also knows to get a road win against the 3-1 Maroon Devils, which are 19-0 at home since the start of the 2011 season, is easier said than done.
“Playing such a great team as Swain County on its home field, a place where they have not lost since 2011,” said Allen, “well, let’s just say we will have our work cut out for us. But if we play like we are capable, we will be OK.”
Both teams also have very similar standout running backs who have been churning up big yardage this season. Tuscola junior Bryce Myers has 501 yards (167.0 ypg) in three games, while Swain County’s has the “Real McCoy” in junior Spencer McCoy, who has gained 480 yards (120.0 ypg) on the ground in the first four games this season.
But Myers and McCoy are not the only running backs who have contributed to their respective split-back veer rushing attacks. Myers is complimented by senior Ben Greene (207 rushing yards) and McCoy has senior teammate Blake Wright (307 rushing yards).
“I think they’re very talented and they’re very well coached,” said Allen. “They’re extremely physical up front and have two tremendous backs in Blake Wright and Spencer McCoy. From the film and going to watch them play, I believe they’re a Top 5 team in Western North Carolina. So from our perspective, nothing has changed. We are playing a great team. They have our respect and they are going to be a difficult opponent for us.”
For tonight’s game, however, Tuscola gets back running back Michael Herbertson, who has been out nursing an injury the past two weeks. But freshman running back Michael Parrot will be out for 10-12 weeks with a fractured femur he sustained in the East Rutherford game.
But even though the staff knows much more about their team now, Allen admits that tonight’s game against the Maroon Devils will reveal the Mountaineers’ true nature and potential.
“(Tonight is) going to be a great test, and a great indicator,” Allen said, “because it’s a very good football team we are playing on the road,” said Allen. “A talented Swain County squad that gets even better when it runs the ball effectively.”
He mentioned a statistic in his Wednesday mid-week press conference that Swain County has averaged 242.0 yards per game on the ground and averages 355 yards per game in total offense.
“To me,” Allen said, “a lot of the tale’s going to be told in our ability to stop the run and our ability to run the ball effectively against their defense.”
Tuscola, which was idle last week, is off to its best start since 2008, when the Mountaineers started the season going 4-0 against their non-conference opponents en route to winning their first 10 games.
As a matter of fact, Tuscola hasn’t had too many positive starts to a football season or posted a winning record in its non-conference games since the turn of the century. In addition to the 2008 team, the 2003 team and the 2004 teams started the season 4-0, while the 2009 squad went 2-1-1 to begin the season.
Inside the Numbers
Factoring in the Tuscola’s 56-0 rout at Cherokee, the Mountaineers average 36.3 points per game and factoring out the 56 points, they are scoring 20 points per contest. Swain on the other hand is scoring an average of 24.25 points and giving up 18.75 points per game.
Both teams run the same offense, both teams have a solid defense, both teams have a stable of talented running backs and both teams have eerily similar per game averages.
But one difference may be in time of preparation as Tuscola had two weeks to prepare for Swain County, while the Maroon Devils, which had its 23-game win streak snapped last week at Franklin, had just four days to regroup and get ready for the Mountaineers.
For the second consecutive Friday night, Swain County has a win streak snapped as the Mountaineers win in a close contest, snapping the Maroon Devils’ 19-game home win streak.
Swain County 23