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Thursday Night Lights: Reynolds vs. Tuscola

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Thursday Night Lights: Reynolds vs. Tuscola

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In the old days, that meant an end-of-the-season tussle, often for the Mountain Athletic Conference title.

Scott Conner vs. Doug Brooks, a pair of old-school coaches who believed in basic block and tackle football and used powerful running games to bulldoze opponents.

The only two 4-A schools in the league, they would often meet in the last game of the regular season, usually with the winner advancing to the playoffs and the loser sometimes going home despite a gaudy record.

That was a long time ago, and eventually the Rockets and Mountaineers moved in and out of the same conferences as realignment altered the league landscape every four years.

Now both schools are in the 3-A class and together again in the Western Mountain Athletic Conference, and this week they meet for the first time since 2008.

And the “Thursday Night Lights” matchup in Waynesville, a 7 pm kickoff in Waynesville on MY 40, now pits the overwhelming favorite to win a third straight conference title with the team most likely to challenge the frontrunner.

Reynolds (5-1, 3-0), ranked No. 3 in the WLOS WNC Top 10 Football Poll, is continuing unabated on a most impressive streak that dates back to the middle of the 2014 season.

Since a loss to Asheville High that year, the Rockets have won 28 consecutive games against WNC opponents, and all 21 vs. league opponents.

And not only winning, but dominating teams by an average margin of more than 35 points.

Tuscola (4-1, 2-0) is also on an impressive roll, with a 15-3 record since the start of the 2016 season. Pisgah is the only WNC team to beat the Mountaineers in that span.

The Mountaineers, using the triple option offense of veteran coach Tommy Pursley, is averaging more than 45 points a game in those 15 wins.

Pursley pulls no punches when describing the challenge his team faces.

“I’ve been coaching here in Western North Carolina for four years, and this by far is the best team I’ve seen on film,” he said.

“Those guys are good, top to bottom. They are big, fast, physical, and they are well coached.”

Running a ground-oriented triple option offense that when functioning well includes a ball-control emphasis that keeps opposing offenses off the field, Purlsey believes this is his best chance to pull off an upset.

“That’s the beauty of this offense. It gives you a chance when you are outmanned, and we are outmanned. When the other team has better personnel that you, this offense gives you a chance.”

The Mountaineers’ defense will have to deal with the absence of cornerback Sam Messer, who is out with an injury. Purlsey said Nester is his best cover corner. The team is also without starting noseguard Joe Hernandez, who is expected back later in the year after breaking an ankle.

Offensively, senior quarterback Grayson Perkins leads Tuscola’s high-scoring attack. He has accounted for 20 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

“Defending the triple option goes against the philosophy of the defense we coach,” said Reynolds coach Shane Laws, noting that it is even more difficult on a short week of practice to prepare for an offense few teams use.

“We want to be aggressive, get a lot of people to the ball, be disruptive with our speed. But that doesn’t work against the triple option. It’s more of a responsibility-driven defense with a lot of one-on-one tackling.

“Give Tuscola credit. They run it very well, and it’s very well executed.”

Quarterback Alex Flinn leads the explosive Reynolds offense that has averaged more than 48 points an outing in its five victories this season.

Tuscola leads the all-time series vs. Reynolds 17-15, including a 17-14 victory in their last meeting in 2008.

Reynolds High increased a couple of incredible streaks last week in a 37-0 rout of Tuscola in the My 40 telecast of "Thursday Night Lights."

The Rockets, ranked No. 1 in the WLOS WNC Football Top 10 Poll, won their 29th consecutive game against a WNC opponent and their 22nd straight victory against a conference foe.

Quarterback Alex Flinn completed 21 of 25 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns for Reynolds (6-1, 4-0), while Nathan St. Onge caught six passes for 88 yards and ran six times for 40 yards and two scores.

Tuscola (4-2, 2-1) had a three-game winning streak snapped.

If you missed the game you can check out our highlights below!

You can also check out our plays of the week!



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