By Lance Hickey
Hendersonville – North Buncombe football overcomes a sluggish start to overwhelm a winless, yet formidable, North Henderson squad 42-7 Friday night. The win gives North Buncombe’s varsity football team their best win record at this point in the season since 2008.
“We had to come out and we had to play our best football, and I don’t think we did in the first half,” said North Buncombe Head Coach Brandon Allen after the game. “I felt like our kids, they responded in the second half and played well.”
North Buncombe received the opening possession of the game, but a fumble would derail the BlackHawks their first drive. North Henderson responded quickly on the Knights’ first possession, capitalizing on a one-yard touchdown run by running back Zidyan Phoeum. North Henderson took a 7-0 lead with 2:57 gone in the first quarter. The Knights lead would not last long.
The BlackHawks began their quest to take control of the game on the next possession, systematically moving the ball down the field while being catapulted by a long run by Skylar Jutras and a face mask penalty by the Knights, quarterback Caden Higgins tied the game on a seven-yard touchdown run with 5:37 remaining in the first quarter.
North Henderson came alive again on the Knights’ next drive moving the ball down the field, but a turnover-on-downs gave the North Buncombe new life. The BlackHawks would turn the ball over on their next drive on a Higgins fumble.
Following several punts, the BlackHawks’ sluggish start took a shift as Higgins scored from 18 yards out to give North Buncombe a 14-7 lead with 1:30 remaining in the first half. The BlackHawks led by seven at the half.
The second half was a different story for North Buncombe as the had their way. Following an interception by sophomore Johnny Jennings, his second of the evening, on the Knight’ opening drive of the second half, the BlackHawks capitalized on a Jutras four-yard touchdown run. Jutras would score again on a one-yard touchdown run as North Buncombe took a 28-7 lead with 5:10 left in the third quarter. They weren’t finished yet.
North Henderson looked to move quickly down the field on their next drive, but would succumb to an interception by Noah Ponder as Ponder returned the ball 40 yards for a score. North Buncombe led 35-7 at the end of the third quarter.
Following another Knights punt, the BlackHawks turned a six-play, 50-yard drive into a score, as Jutras scored from one yard out. On the drive, Jutras garnered his third touchdown of the game while compiling 229 rushing yards on the night. Higgins also had a stellar night of his own, rushing for 98 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
“It would be the first playoff spot we’ve had in, I think, four years,” said Higgins, a senior. “We’ve worked our hind-ends off every day, and throughout the summer, and we really want it.”
North Buncombe (6-2, 4-1)) would go on to defeat North Henderson (0-7, 0-4) 42-7. The win for the BlackHawks edges them closer to the playoffs. Look for North Buncombe to continue its run against a 4-3 Tuscola team on Friday night at home.
“A win is a win,” said Allen. “We’ve got to take it one game at a time and hope that we do enough to put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs.”