In the regular-season football finale for both schools, Hendersonville High is a lock for the 2-A state playoffs and East Henderson appears to be the only Mountain Six Conference team that won’t be playing in the postseason.
But there is still a lot of opportunity for excitement at Justus Field when the Bearcats visit East Henderson in the “Thursday Night Lights” showdown, a 7 pm kickoff on MY 40.
Hendersonville (7-3, 3-1), ranked eighth in the WLOS WNC Football Top 10 Poll, has a chance to share the league title if No. 2 Franklin (10-0, 4-0) loses at Smoky Mountain (5-5, 2-2) on Friday night.
If not, the Bearcats, on a three-game winning streak, can wrap up solo second place and improve their chances at a higher playoff seeding by beating their county rivals for a fifth straight year and the eighth time in nine seasons.
The Bearcats’ explosive offense, which has scored 27 or more points in seven of 10 games this season, includes a game-breaking passing attack.
Quarterback Alex “Bud” Williford has thrown for 2,481 yards this season, with 23 touchdowns.
His dynamic receivers include Tykel Landrum (47 catches, 975 yards, six TDs) and Kalin Ensley (45 receptions, 887 yards, 13 scores).
Williford is approaching the 6,000-yard passing mark over two seasons, just 121 yards shy. He has thrown for 5,879 yards and 59 TDs over 24 games in that span.
East Henderson (3-7, 1-3) counters with their own playmaker, junior quarterback Chris Hemphill. He has thrown for 1,208 yards and 11 scores and has rushed for 641 yards and 11 TDs.
Tailback Jake Shattuck (996 yards, eight TDs) also has breakaway ability for the up-and-down Eagles, who have been shut out twice but scored 27 or more points in six of their other eight games.
The Eagles are currently tied for fourth place in the Mountain Six Conference along with Pisgah and Brevard.
An unofficial playoff projection released this week has five of the six league teams getting in, with Franklin and Hendersonville expected to receive the automatic two spots for finishing first and second.
Current third-place team Smoky Mountain has a MaxPreps ranking of 209 and is projected in, along with Pisgah (135) and Brevard (227).
East Henderson (317) is projected to not make the playoffs.
The Bearcats are predicted to be a No. 5 seed in the 2A bracket and host a first-round game on Nov. 10.
Hendersonville High piled up 472 yards of offense to rout East Henderson 48-7 in the final "Thursday Night Lights" TV game on MY 40.
The Bearcats (8-3, 4-1) got 191 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Ty'rese Hunt, while Kalin Ensley ran for a score and caught a pair of touchdown passes from Alex "Bud" Williford.
East Henderson, with just 131 yards of offense, scored on a 23-yard pass from Chris Hemphill to Tyler Pace.
Hendersonville will advance to the playoffs next week; the Eagles end their season at 3-8, 1-4.
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