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Bears come alive in 2nd half | USA Today High School Sports

Pisgah's Daniel Van Vaerenbergh.

Pisgah’s Daniel Van Vaerenbergh.

Here is a report on Friday’s Pisgah-Smoky Mountain football game from correspondent Tyler Norris Goode:

SYLVA – Pisgah coach Brett Chappell hasn’t always been thrilled with how his squad has started key games this season.

He’s always had reason to love the way his Bears finish.

After falling behind early against Smoky Mountain Friday night, Pisgah’s defense dominated yet another second half to earn a 35-17 victory that kept alive the Haywood County squad’s faint hopes of sharing the Western North Carolina Athletic Conference title.

The Bears (7-3, 4-2), who have now won three in a row, didn’t allow a point and gave up just four first downs after Smoky’s band marched at halftime. Chappell’s squad has outscored its last four opponents by a 42-13 margin over the final 24 minutes.

“One thing we’ve done going back to even the West Henderson and Franklin games (both Pisgah losses) is I think our kids have rallied a little bit,” Chappell said. “We’ve been starting the games a little better. I thought we did that again tonight … and I think we made some good defensive adjustments at halftime and settled in. It was just a good overall job by our kids tonight.”

Daniel Van Vaerenbergh – one of WNC’s leading rushers – toted 29 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns for the Bears but had a scary moment shortly before halftime. He twisted his knee on a 7-yard gain deep in Smoky Mountain territory and was slow to get up then watched from the sidelines as Isaiah Fisher carried for a 2-yard touchdown that allowed Pisgah to take a 21-17 lead.

Van Vaerenbergh was back in action throughout the second half and scored the game’s final points on a 3-yard run late in the fourth period. Michael Parrott added 68 rushing yards, including two touchdowns, for the Bears.

Smoky Mountain (5-5, 3-3) got off to a fast start thanks in part to a strong performance by multi-talented Jayce Wolfe, who’d been limited this season by a hamstring injury.

He lined up at a variety of positions, including quarterback, and finished with 99 yards and a touchdown on nine carries – though Pisgah slowed him a bit after halftime.

“I would like to give credit to our coaches because they are excellent at being able to adjust on the fly and help us know what to do to be successful,” said Parrott, who played defensive end in addition to his role as fullback. “(Wolfe’s first-half success) was a focal point of our conversations at halftime. Coaches were really focused on setting the edge and containing the perimeter with him.”

Trey Morgan, another two-way starter, keyed on Wolfe after intermission.

“(Wolfe) is a great player, and we had no idea they’d come out here in the wildcat formation,” Morgan said. “Our coaches moved me over to the middle of the field and had me running the alley both ways so we wouldn’t give up much ground.”

The Mustangs got a defensive boost from Nick Napert, who returned a first-quarter interception to Pisgah’s 12 to set up a quick scoring drive that was capped by Chase Fisher’s 1-yard run.

Napert also recovered a fumble and had a sack early in the third quarter, but the Bears bounced back.

“Their offense was aggressive, and they’re probably the most-physical team we’ve played all year,” said Dave Napert, Smoky’s coach and Nick’s father. “I was worried about that. Watching them on film, they were really, really physical. … They get tougher and tougher every week.”

Pisgah closes out the regular season next week at home against Brevard while Smoky Mountain hosts North Henderson.

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