Here is a report on Friday’s Pisgah-Tuscola football game from correspondent Tyler Norris Goode:
WAYNESVILLE — Young boys all around Haywood County fantasize about being on the field for the key play in the big game — Pisgah vs. Tuscola.
When that moment arrived Friday night at C.E. Weatherby Stadium, a crowd of Bears rose tall and lived out their childhood dream.
Moments after Tanner Fox’s second field goal gave Pisgah a three-point lead in overtime, an overflow crowd roared as Tuscola’s offense lined up to go for the win on fourth down inside Pisgah’s 1-yard line.
The minute the ball was snapped, a wall of Bears blew up the play and forced quarterback Zach Webster to pitch the ball backwards toward a teammate in desperation.
Pisgah eventually recovered the loose ball, setting off a raucous celebration from the visitors’ stands as the Bears snapped a two-game losing streak with a 20-17 victory.
It was only the second time the battle for Haywood County was not settled in regulation (Tuscola beat Pisgah, 24-21, in overtime in 2012).
“I’ve been watching this game since I was a little kid,” said Pisgah junior Michael Parrott, who led the Bears’ defensive push on the game’s final play. “My big brother (Alex) played in it. My Dad (Gregg) played in it. Now here we are winning it three years in a row … It’s extreme excitement to win.”
Daniel VanVaerenbergh rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries to lead Pisgah, which improved to 5-3 and 2-2 this season and pulled within one game of knotting its overall series with Tuscola, which still holds a 26-25-1 edge.
“To go through a week of practice like we went through and for our kids to be able to enjoy this … they will remember this for the rest of their lives,” said Pisgah coach Brett Chappell, who improved to 3-0 against the Bears’ archrivals. “Some of these guys have not lost to Tuscola. That’s huge.”
Tuscola (5-3, 2-2 in Western North Carolina Athletic Association) had jumped out to 10-0 lead and later came from behind to claim a 17-14 lead before Fox forced overtime with a 34-yarder with less than 90 seconds to go in regulation.
Fox calmly nailed a 21-yarder after Pisgah’s overtime drive stalled at the Tuscola 4.
“I was nervous, but I had faith in my line and my holder that they’d get it done, and that I’d win us the game,” Fox said. “This feels great. It’s great just for the confidence of the team.”
Tuscola was led by Webster’s 87 rushing yards; he also passed for 60.
“What can you say? I didn’t even know what to say to our kids just now (in postgame huddle),” Tuscola coach Tommy Pursley said. “You get so close … Our kids gave themselves a chance to win, but we just didn’t get it done.”
If not for a heads-up play by Pisgah’s Jesse Martinez, the Bears might have gone into halftime with zero points for third straight week. But after a Tuscola defender tipped a long pass from Rogers, Martinez pulled it in for a 43-yard reception.
On the next play, Pisgah’s Trey Morgan grabbed Houston Rogers’ 22-yard pass in the back of the end zone to put the Bears on the board 24 seconds before the halftime horn.
Morgan, who caught eight passes for 98 yards, also had an interception while playing defense.
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