After five months and hundreds of games, the 2017 high school football season in WNC has come to an end.
It was a memorable, record-breaking time for a trio of seniors – quarterbacks Trey Robinson of Mountain Heritage and Ben Young of Mitchell, and Hendersonville receiver Tykel Landrum – players who established numbers that may not be reached for a long time.
And it ended with a heartwarming story in Cherokee, where a coach battling cancer led his team to a state championship.
A final look at WNC’s top 10 teams of 2017:
1. Reynolds (14-2)
Another season of total domination of local football, the Rockets won 13 straight games before being derailed by New Hanover in the 3AA state title game. With streaks that began midway through the 2014 season, Reynolds has won 33 games in a row against WNC schools and 26 straight vs. conference opponents.
2. Cherokee (14-1)
Coach Kent Briggs’ four-year rebuilding program culminated in a share of the Smoky Mountain Conference regular-season title and the state 1A championship. After going 10-21 in their first 2 ½ seasons under Briggs, the Braves brought in and have posted a 20-2 record since the middle of the 2016 season.
3. Mountain Heritage (13-1)
A spirited run included 13 straight wins and a berth in the 2A Western Regional final. The Cougars outscored their opponents 604-238 and won the Western Highlands Conference for a third straight season under coach Joey Robinson.
4. Franklin (13-1)
An undefeated regular season for the fourth time in seven years and winning the competitive Mountain Six Conference highlighted the Panthers’ season. A 13-game winning streak ended with a loss to eventual state champion Hibriten in the 2AA playoffs.
5. Murphy (12-3)
A strong effort to defend their state title ended with the Bulldogs losing in the 1AA Western Regional final. The team earned a share of the Smoky Mountain Conference championship and coach David Gentry moved to within seven wins of 400 for his amazing career.
6. Mitchell (12-2)
A third straight appearance in the 1A Western Regional finals for the Mountaineers, who lost to the eventual state champion for a third time as well. The program’s 47-11 mark the past four years under coach Travise Pitman is the best in the mountains in that span.
7. Hendersonville (10-4)
An explosive, big-play offense and a defense that got better helped the Bearcats to a six-game winning streak before falling to Mountain Heritage in the third round of the 2A playoffs. The cardiac ‘Cats won five games by eight points or less.
8. Christ School (8-2)
Another impressive season for coach Mark Munoz, who is 63-17 in his seven seasons with the Greenies. With a wealth of skill-position talent returning, this should be one of WNC’s top teams in 2018.
9. Robbinsville (9-5)
Finishing fourth in your league usually isn’t this impressive, unless you play in the rugged Smoky Mountain Conference. Coach Dee Walsh won two playoff games and helped develop a star in sophomore running back Rylee Anderson.
10. Swain (8-5)
The Maroon Devils overcame a slow start to win six straight and earn a share of the Smoky Mountain Conference championship. This tradition-rich program won at least eight games for the seventh time in nine years.