By Pete Zamplas
A.C. Reynolds flexed its dominant muscles Friday, walloping second-place West Henderson 56-14 at home to clinch its fifth straight conference title.
Eli Carr threw for 446 yards to set a school record, passing for six of ACR’s eight touchdowns. The first-year starter for Reynolds has already thrown for nearly 2,600 yards and 35 TDs this season. The 6-foot-1, 209-pound senior is a transfer from Maiden and is having a prolific maiden voyage with Reynolds.
Carter Lindsay’s 175 receiving yards set a single-game ACR mark.
ACR put the Reynolds Wrap on the Western Mountain Athletic Conference crown. The Rockets lead by two games, with merely one to play.
T.C. Roberson tied West at 5-2 for second-best overall in the WMAC, by shutting out Tuscola 31-0 in a dramatic upset. Roberson is in line to finish an impressive third, by having beaten two of its closest contestants for that spot. TCR beat Erwin (4-3) in a spread shoot-out 39-37 in overtime on Oct. 11, and just shut out THS (4-3). The Rams vault to second if they somehow stun ACR behind Brody Whitson to Rodney McDay, and if West loses at home to Asheville (3-4).
If Reynolds wins as expected at TCR, the Rockets finish unbeaten in the WMAC for the fifth consecutive season under head coach Shane Laws. ACR leads the series with TCR 41-16-1. Laws will help coach North Carolina versus S.C. in the high school Shrine Bowl next month.
Coach Laws grinned how the win earns “another ball on the wall” — referring to football emblems in the home locker room, honoring each season with a conference crown. He credited the fierce defense, Carr’s steady play and quick pass releases, skill players’ talent, and an improving offensive line. ACR outscores foes at an average of 45 to 13, including 18-4 in the second quarter.
The Rocket defense is smaller than usual but swiftly gangs up on ball carriers, and puts them away with hard hits. Run-reliant West rushed 51 times for 125 yards, averaging merely 2.45 per carry. MLB Marc Golden leads ACR with 120 tackles.
Six of the eight other WMAC teams still contend to qualify for playoffs. ACR, TCR, Erwin and Asheville are typically in the larger 3AA bracket. The other five schools are in standard 3A, and thus compete more directly with each other for seeding.
West is best among those 3A teams. Only Tuscola — which beat West — can surpass the Falcons on a tiebreaker (at 5-3) for second overall. That is by winning at Erwin, and if West loses at home to Asheville.
Asheville is talented, a dangerous underdog with its passing, and has its own postseason hopes. AHS edged North Buncombe 41-38 Friday. Three Hillier rolled right then fired a 12-yard pass to tall Famous Pasley, for AHS’ first score. Hillier hit tight end Vasili Paulk near midfield, and Paulk went the distance for a TD.
AHS now has the tie-breaker over N.B., and by beating West would tie the Hawks (who are off Friday) at 4-4. Yet AHS lost to Erwin and Tuscola — the loser of their game slips to 4-4. The Hawks hope that loser is Tuscola, which it beat 29-27, instead of Erwin which it lost to.
Erwin is in the thick of the race for the fourth spot, after beating North Henderson 44-7 Friday. The Erwin-THS winner goes to 5-3 and at least fourth overall, and likely makes playoffs. Erwin lost to West. The Warriors’ first big win was 42-30 over AHS Sept. 20. West gets the nod over Erwin and TCR if they all finish 5-3, since West defeated those other two teams.
There is a big drop the the two lowest WMAC teams, North Henderson and Enka are both winless in the conference. They play each other Friday, at Enka, with much pride at stake.
Meanwhile, Buncombe’s sole non-WMAC public school team, Owen, won 54-32 at Avery to improve to 6-4 overall. The Warhorses are 3-2 in Western Highlands, running third among the six teams.
The Rockets built a 35-0 lead over West in the first half. The first two TDs were the Carr to Car-ter Connection. First, quick Lindsay caught the ball at the ten while in full stride, for a 42-yard score. Soonafter, Lindsay crossed up the middle, was wide open, and snatched the ball at the goal line as he cruised in. Lindsay often had single coverage, as West doubled against Jhari Patterson.
Lindsay and Patterson have caught nearly 100 passes. Patterson has 1,060 yards on 51 catches (20.8 ypc.) for 15 TDs. Lindsay has 42 receptions for 759 yards (17.8) and 8 TDs. Four of Mosley’s 18 catches were scores.
Patterson got going, soon enough. After one reception, he broke three tackles before getting corralled out of bounds.
Don Mosley, the dual-threat transfer from Erwin, got many yards receiving out of the backfield. He made a dazzling TD play. He caught a Carr pass at the West 25, cut right then promptly back to the left. Mosley broke a tackle, warded off a Falcon with a stiff arm, and just reached the end zone pylon as he was tackled. The extra point made it 21-0, in the opening quarter.
Reynold’s fourth touchdown was when Jackson McCurry clutched a lob into the end zone. Patterson as a wildcat QB jogged in, and ACR led 35-0.
The Falcons scored both of their TDs on fourth-down passes to Austin Jenkins. Both plays went to the left side, where Seth Eberhardt was not there to defend since he left early with an injury.
After West’s first score, Patterson notched a 35-yard TD reception. He caught a wide screen to the right, at the West 30. He cut back all the way across the field, and scored. Patterson caught a lob for the next score.
That short drive was set up by a fumble deep in Falcon territory, after Calvin Madden’s vicious hit on QB Auden Brennan jarred loose the ball, which bounced eventually into Jackson Godfrey’s hands.
Lindsay’s acrobatic long catch down to the Falcon four set up the final score, a run by sub RB Caleb Madden.
Markese Jackson is Reynolds’ top rusher, with 532 yards (5.3 ypc.). He and Mosley have run for six TDs, and Patterson five more.