WAYNESVILLE — Christmas comes twice a year in Haywood County.
Residents observe Dec. 25 just like everybody else. And minus the garland, lights and tinsel, there’s a certain Friday night in autumn worth noting.
Ho, ho, ho. It’s that time again.
Kickoff from Tuscola’s Weatherby Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Great American Rivalry Series is showcasing Pisgah-Tuscola for the seventh consecutive year which means scholarship opportunities for both teams and a trophy to the winner.
Third-year Black Bears coach Brett Chappell grew up in Transylvania County – he remains the all-time leading rusher in Rosman history (5,296 yards). But that being said, Chappell has developed an appreciation for Friday’s Haywood County game.
“This rivalry is everything it’s billed to be,” Chappell said.
“It’s the biggest game around here. You’re going to see a lot of people in the crowd Friday who come just for this game and you won’t see them again. I’m sure the rivalry makes for good conversations, before and after.”
“A lot can happen for the winner and a lot can happen for the loser. Priority No. 1 is winning this game.”
Looking to Friday, the host Mountaineers (5-2, 2-1) lead the all-time series, 26-24-1, but have lost the last two games to their neighbors to the east.
Caleb Ferguson (846 rushing yards, 265 receiving yards and 14 combined touchdowns), Roman Jenkins (477 yards, six touchdowns), Brent Turner (325 yards, three touchdowns) and Zach Webster (667 passing yards, 313 rushing yards and 11 combined touchdowns) are the playmakers looking to make it three in a row for Tuscola.
Webster had been interception-free until last week, but the quarterback still leads his team in tackles (9.7) along with Taylor Austin (9.4), Joe Napert (8.6), Grayson Perkins and Eli Trantham (6.7). Pisgah quarterback Houston Rogers (624 yards and eight touchdowns with four interceptions) threw his seventh and eighth touchdowns of the year last Friday.
Daniel VanVaerenbergh (975 yards, eight touchdowns) Trey Morgan (21 receptions for 278 yards and five touchdowns) and Jesse Martinez (20 receptions for 224 yards and two touchdowns) are other weapons around him. Tackling leaders for the Black Bears are Jeff Albrittton (4.7 per game), Garrett Jones (4.6), Isaiah Fisher (4.1) and Trey Morgan (4.1).
“(Pisgah) is very good, especially on defense,” Tuscola coach Tommy Pursley said.
“Some of our problems were a case of shooting ourselves in the foot, no doubt. We have to get better this week.”
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