Here is a report on Friday’s Pisgah-West Henderson football game from correspondent Tyler Norris Goode:
CANTON — Like every other player on West Henderson’s roster, linebacker Shauquille Rospel walked into Pisgah Memorial Stadium feeling the Falcons had something to prove Friday night.
Fresh on their minds was Monday’s seven-point defeat to Smoky Mountain, as well as last year’s 3-0 home loss to Pisgah, a program West hadn’t defeated since 2009.
So when Rospel saw a loose ball hit the turf near Pisgah’s end zone, he scooped it up and rumbled three yards for a score that gave the Falcons a 16-point advantage early in the third quarter.
The Falcons still had to weather a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Bears, but the visitors escaped with a 16-12 victory that kept them in the thick of the Western North Carolina Athletic Conference race.
“We wanted to beat Pisgah so bad,” Rospel said. “So we just hit it hard in practice the last few days. It was a total team effort all night long.”
Despite not having the services of leading rusher Tanner Bullock, who suffered an injured collarbone on Monday, West Henderson (5-2, 2-1) opened with tone-setting and clock-chewing drives of 15 and 12 plays, respectively. The first ended with James Murray’s 31-yard field goal, and the second culminated with Landon Owen’s 3-yard scoring run.
Eight Falcons toted the ball for coach Paul Whitaker’s squad, but Rospel and the defense were the key.
Owen and Dante Padilla each picked off Pisgah quarterback Houston Rogers, and the defensive front constantly pressured Rogers and held Bears’ leading rusher Daniel VanVaerenbergh to 39 yards on 14 carries.
“Our defense has kept us in ballgames all year,” Whitaker said. “Second half, credit to Pisgah’s defense. They shut down what we’d been doing.
“It was just a great ball game between two teams,” Whitaker said. “That 3-0 loss last year … we still had a lot of bad blood. And losing Monday night, we felt like we didn’t give our best performance.
“Give our kids credit. They came out Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and got after it in practice. “We told ‘em we dug the hole ourselves, so bring your shovel.’”
Pisgah (4-3, 1-2) continued its undesired run of lousy starts against quality opponents.
A week after first-half penalties and turnovers doomed Pisgah’s chances against Franklin, the Bears’ offense mustered just three first downs and 38 yards against West before halftime.
But Rogers and the Bears showed resiliency in the fourth quarter. The junior quarterback hit Trey Morgan on touchdown strikes of 16 and 13 yards. Though both extra-point conversions – a run and a kick – failed, Pisgah forced West Henderson into a fifth-straight, three-and out then converted a third-down, 50-yard halfback pass from Jesse Martinez to Morgan that gave the Bears a first-and-goal at West’s 5 with less than a minute to go.
But seconds later, Martinez was beyond the back of the end zone when he caught Rogers’ fourth-down throw.
“We came alive and rallied,” Pisgah coach Brett Chappell said. “We got into some things that we usually don’t do, which was able to help us. But here’s the whole thing: You had two really good defenses playing tonight. I think we’re both leading the conference in fewest points allowed, so we knew it was going to be a low-scoring game. We just didn’t make enough plays, and West did.”
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