By Jonathan Austin
Yancey County News
For nearly one half Friday night, the Mountain Heritage and Hendersonville High varsity football teams were like two well-matched boxers, pounding away but seemingly unable to find the other's tender spot. But as is the case in many battles, one side made adjustments, capitalizing where the punches were beginning to have an effect, opening up small wound; cutting, bruising, and finally staggering their foe.
In the end, the seemingly well-matched game turned lopsided as the Bearcats passed and rushed for a 27-0 victory in the opening round of conference play for both schools.
The defenses owned the first two quarters, and as the clock wound down it appeared both sides would go to the locker room scoreless. But with less tha
n 50 seconds to go and in the red zone, Hendersonville quarterback Grant Rivers connected with Mahcallum Duckett, who pushed into the end zone.
Nonetheless, Bearcat fans seemed concerned, saying they had expected their boys - known for speed and big plays - to have the game well in hand rather than filing into the locker room up by only that last-moment score.
But then came the adjustments, and the Bearcats started anew in the third, quickly moving 50 yards with punishing inside running to add their second touchdown, though they missed on a two-point conversion attempt.
The Cougars couldn't sustain on offense, though, and after punting it away they saw Hendersonville take only two plays to show they had found their stride as they again found the end zone. They missed the point after, and a Heritage coach tried to rally his boys, shouting encouragement that there was time and opportunity for a comeback.
Hendersonville didn't intend to allow any come-from-behind effort, however, as a Bearcat defender caught Cougar quarterback Sam Howell in the backfield for a 14-yard loss on Heritage's next possession, forcing another punt.
Several times the Cougars - in the hole on penalties or negative yardage - looked for their receivers to advance the ball, but Hendersonville defenders repeatedly got better position and picked the passes off for critical turnovers that took the air out of any air game.
Hendersonville capped of the night with another touchdown and conversion to run out the clock and secure their 27-0 victory at home.