REYNOLDS – No one in Western North Carolina football can make something out of nothing like Rico Dowdle.
The Reynolds senior showed off those improvisational skills plenty of times Friday, turning broken plays into huge gains. And to be fair, he got his share of quality blocking from Rockets linemen, too.
Asheville High could neither stop nor contain Dowdle in a 54-21 blowout at Dalton Stadium.
Dowdle carried the ball 21 times for a game-high 249 yards and six touchdowns that covered 1, 3, 6, 19, 49 and 63 yards. It is the most single-game touchdown runs by a Reynolds football player since the half-dozen that Darius Spencer had in 2007.
“This is a big step up for us. Tonight everyone did what they needed to do to beat a really good football team,” Dowdle said.
“We’re getting better every week. We want to go deep in (the NCHSAA playoffs) and I think we’ve got the team to do it.”
Dowdle has been playing in recent weeks with a sprained left shoulder, but ran at will Friday to give the Rockets (6-1, 2-0) their first victory in Buncombe County’s premier rivalry since 2010.
Dowdle had five of his touchdowns by halftime and Reynolds was completely in control with a 44-7 lead after two quarters. For a while, the Rockets even looked like they would surpass their previous record for margin of a victory against Asheville (42 points from a 48-6 game in 1989).
A.J. Logan added 109 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, while Sean Jones ran eight times for 89 yards. River Naisang nailed a 32-yard field goal with 9:16 remaining to play and Aundreas Hill, Malik Long and Noah Eberhardt recovered fumbles from the Cougars (5-1, 0-1).
With Asheville and Erwin in the rear-view mirror, Reynolds is now in the driver’s seat for the Mountain Athletic Conference 3-A championship and unofficial outright title. Asheville is a 10-time defending conference champion and was the 3-A/4-A league’s preseason favorite.
“We can breathe a little easier and I’m looking forward to our open week after seeing Asheville and Erwin,” Rockets coach Shane Laws said.
“I’m proud of our kids. Everything really came together tonight for the Rockets. But we’ve got a lot of football left to play. The kids are doing everything we’ve asked of them as kids so far and I’m pleased with that.”
The Rockets went 83 yards in 11 plays (all runs) on their first possession, capped off by Logan’s 7-yard touchdown carry. The next six scores all came from Dowdle who has been responsible for 33 touchdowns (27 rushing, six passing) this fall. He hasn’t yet committed to play in college, but has lined up visits to a couple Southeastern Conference programs (South Carolina and Tennessee) in recent weeks.
Dowdle was named the most valuable player of Friday’s game by the Great American Rivalry Series, a national promotion that chose to showcase Asheville-Reynolds for the third time since 2010.
Asheville’s Devon Davidson completed 12 of his 21 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown (24 yards to Makaius Brewer). Ahmad Shivers led the way in rushing for the Cougars with nine carries for 135 yards, while Reggie Battle had 17 rushes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Aquila Smith scored on a 3-yard touchdown run at the 8:15 mark of the third quarter.
“Everything just kind of snowballed on us tonight,” Asheville coach Danny Wilkins said.
“We knew that Reynolds had an overall speed advantage on us, but we didn’t set the edge or tackle well at all. And then you throw in the turnovers. But give credit to Reynolds. That’s a really good football team right now and they’re getting better.”
During a pregame ceremony, Dowdle and Asheville High linebacker/wide receiver Jesse Rackley received scholar-athlete awards from the Great American Rivalry Series. Former quarterbacks David Howerton (Asheville) and Caleb Pressley (Reynolds) were recognized as hall of fame players.
Reynolds is idle next week, while the Cougars are at home against Enka.
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