A look at last week’s football highlights, news and notes from around the Western Highlands Conference:
– Owen running back Jager Gardner has put together a good season for many players in just the past two weeks. After shredding Avery for a Western North Carolina-record 459 yards, Gardner rushes 15 times for 301 yards and five touchdowns in Owen’s 62-6 win over Mitchell. The Warhorse standout is already near 1,300 yards for the season.
– Hendersonville’s Cole Cleary did a bit of everything for the Bearcats as they rallied for a 30-28 win over Madison. The quarterback ran for 132 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, threw for 101 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a 45-yard touchdown pass on a trick play. Defensively, Cleary had 12 tackles and recovered two fumbles.
– Madison running back Tyler Hoffman had 181 yards on 31 carries for the Patriots in their loss to Hendersonville.
– Polk County’s Jordan Smith ran for 121 yards on six carries and two touchdowns in the Wolverines’ 80-36 win at Mountain Heritage.
Owen and Polk County now share first place in the WHC at 2-0 and could be heading toward a late-season showdown at Owen for the conference title. But a lot of football remains to be played before then.
Owen must travel this week to Mountain Heritage, where the Cougars will undoubtedly be looking to rebounds from last week’s disastrous loss to Polk County. The Wolverines’ success running the ball will no doubt be encouraging news for Gardner, but it’s also unlikely that Mountain Heritage will again commit seven turnovers.
Hendersonville picked up a huge win at Madison, and the setback dropped the Patriots to an unexpected 0-2 in the league race. Having already lost to Polk County, Madison will need a good bit of help to climb back into the race for the conference title. The Bearcats, meanwhile, earned their first league win and now in third place in the league.
By the Numbers
-5: Total first-half yards, on 29 plays, for Unaka, Tenn. in a 51-0 loss to Avery.
30: Total yards for the game for Unaka.
54: Number of second-half points scored by Polk County in its 80-36 win at Mountain Heritage.
56: Number of points scored by Mitchell in its five losses this season. The Mountaineers did tally 39 in a 39-6 win over Cherokee earlier this season.
270: Total points scored by Owen in its six games. The Warhorses have scored at least 36 points in all but one of those games.
“Eighty points is going to send some shock waves through the area” – Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis after the Wolverines’ win.
The Week Ahead
Game of the week in the WHC is most likely the Owen-Mountain Heritage clash. It’s beginning to look as if it will be tough for a two-loss team to win the WHC title, and the Cougars would fall to 1-2 in league play with a defeat.
The Avery-Hendersonville matchup is another contest between one-loss teams, though Avery is 0-1 in league play. It will be interesting to see how Avery’s defense fares after giving up 459 rushing yards to Gardner two weeks ago, then dominating Unaka last week.
Polk County celebrates Homecoming with a visit from Mitchell. The Mountaineers haven’t been able to sustain much offense of late, scoring 13 points in their last three games, and will be looking to bounce back from last week’s rout.
Madison heads out of state and out of league play with a trip to West Greene, Tenn. The Patriots will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak.