Beyond the Scoreboard: Friday Night Rivals opens with Henderson County football rivalry

Image credit:{ }Ed Clemente / MGN

Two Henderson County schools with very different agendas open up the WNC high-school schedule of televised games on Friday night.

For the first time, Friday Night Rivals on My40 will be televised on the traditional night for high school football, and it’s a rivalry game featuring Hendersonville High at North Henderson.

The telecast begins at 7 p.m., with kickoff set for 7:30.

For Hendersonville, it’s trying to make some history. For the Knights, it’s a matter of trying to create a new history.

Bearcats’ coach Jim Soesbee has made it clear that his team’s goal is to be the first in the storied history of the program to win 10 games or more for three straight seasons.

Meanwhile, North Henderson coach Zach Wilkins is looking to build a team that can begin reversing the fortunes of a program that has had just one season in the last 17 years.

“We want to be the first team to win 10 games three times in a row,” said Sosebee. “We want to make history.”

The Bearcats lost two great offensive players from a 10-4 team, quarterback Alex Williford and four-year starter at receiver Tykel Landrum.

But 14 starters return, including eight on offense.

Skill position talent like receiver Kalin Ensley (1,258 yards receiving, 19 touchdowns) and running back Ty’rese Hunt (1,309 yards rushing, 17 TDs) will lead the offense.

Wilkins lost a dynamic offensive threat in Darren Lammons, but has some returning talent.

“We’re excited. It’s a new year and we’re going to be young in a lot of spots, especially in the skill positions, but we have some guys back on the line that we are going to rely heavily on,” said Wilkins, who was 2-9 last season in his first year at North.

Jacob Allison, Curtis Matthews, Brock McKee and Dawson Blackwell are offensive linemen who will also start on defense.

Alberto Martinez is a rangy wide receiver who Wilkins will depend on as a playmaker.

Jaret Jystad stepped in as starting quarterback late last season and is back, and the Knights hope to have injured tailback Windell Flowers return soon.

After dropping their last eight games in 2017 in Western Mountain Athletic Conference play, the Knights face a tough non-conference opener.

Hendersonville has beaten its county rival eight times in the past 10 seasons, scoring at least 34 points in each of those victories.

The Knights beat the Bearcats in 2015 and ’13.

“It’s a typical Hendersonville team, real athletic and explosive and well-coached,” said Wilkins.

“It’s quite a challenge for a young team in the opening game, but I’m anxious to see where we stand against a really good team.”

And playing on TV is an exciting prospect.

“Our kids have been talking about this all spring and summer, ever since we found out we would be the first game on Friday night,” said Wilkins, the son of former Asheville High coaching legend Danny Wilkins.

“It’s a motivational thing as well, and our kids are excited.”

The complete list of Friday Night Rivals games for 2018 include:

  • Aug. 17 -- Hendersonville at North Henderson
  • Aug. 24 -- Brevard at Rosman
  • Aug. 31 -- West Henderson at East Henderson
  • Sept. 7 -- Robbinsville at Christ School
  • Sept. 14 – Hillcrest, S.C. at Dorman, S.C.
  • Sept. 21 – Eastside, S.C. at Chapman, S.C.
  • Sept. 28 – Clinton, S.C. at Union County, S.C.
  • Oct. 5 -- Roberson at Erwin
  • Oct. 12 -- Andrews at Cherokee
  • Oct. 19 -- North Buncombe at Reynolds
  • Oct. 26 -- Mountain Heritage at Polk County
  • Nov. 2 -- West Henderson at Asheville

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