Three games of interest to watch Friday night during Week 7 of the Western North Carolina prep football season.
Cherokee (5-0, 0-0) at Swain County (2-3, 1-0), 7:30 p.m.
After going through non-conference play unscathed, the Braves – ranked 9th in the WLOS WNC Top 10 Football Poll – now turn their attention toward competing for a Smoky Mountain 1-A Conference title.
First step in that process is to get by an old nemesis – Swain has beaten Cherokee in each of the past eight seasons to stretch its series edge to a dominating 43-8.
Both teams are led by multi-talented quarterbacks. Cherokee’s Tye Mintz has 557 yards passing (with six touchdowns), 508 yard rushing (10 TDs) and is second on the team with 26 tackles.
Defensive end Byron Locust (28) is the Braves’ leading tackler.
Coach Kent Briggs has turned around the Cherokee program and has won 11 of his last 12 games over the past two seasons.
Maroon Devils’ senior Brodie Bowman has also been proficient in the air (508 yards, 3 scores) and on the ground (297 yards, 5 TDs).
Middle linebacker Wren Gunter (53 tackles) leads the defense for Swain, which has won 17 SMC titles but none since 2013.
West Henderson (4-1, 2-0) at Erwin (1-4, 1-2), 7 pm
This is the time of year for teams to win conference games and secure playoff berths, which makes this Western Mountain Athletic 3-A league game interesting and important.
The Falcons, ranked 7th in the WLOS Top 10 Poll, showed its grit last week, scoring 14 late points to earn a 28-25 overtime win vs. Roberson.
Their three-headed attack at running back (Trenton Gasperson, Elijah Nickell and Jason Wallace) have combined for 1,069 yards and nine TDs.
Gasperson is also his team’s top tackler with 48.
The Warriors snapped a four-game losing streak last week, routing North Buncombe 51-9 without quarterback Riley Towles, who is out indefinitely with an injury.
Kendrick Weaver, who has been moved to receiver, returned under center and led the offense to its best showing of the season. His top weapon is tailback Isaiah Poore (429 yards rushing, 7 TDs).
Defensively, middle linebacker Jesse Hembree (42 tackles) leads the way.
Madison (2-3) at Smoky Mountain (2-3)
Why is a non-conference game between two teams with losing records interesting?
For the enjoyment of watching two of WNC’s most talented quarterbacks.
The Patriots’ Clark Gray is WNC’s top producer of total yardage, with 1,584 yards (16 yards ahead of Mountain Heritage’s Trey Robinson).
The junior is second behind Robinson in rushing (895 yards, with 10 scores) and has completed 41-of-66 passes for 677 yards and 5 TDs. He has also caught a pass for a 12-yard score.
The Mustangs had gotten a ton of production from senior quarterback Nate Coffey, who has completed 91-of-156 passes for 1,228 yards (third in WNC) and 11 touchdowns.
He doesn’t run often, though his 18 carries for 33 yards includes two TDs.
While Coffey and Gray have produced a lot of numbers, points and excitement, both teams need to shore up defensively.
The Patriots have allowed 30 or more points in four of five games, while Smoky Mountain has given up 35 points in three different outings.