By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain’s football team will open its season at home Friday with a 7:30 p.m. game against Robbinsville at Carr Hooper Stadium/Babe Howell Field.
“I think we are ahead of where we were last year because of the familiarity we have on both sides of the ball,” said Ricky Brindley, who is preparing for his second season as coach.
The Black Knights will be a formidable challenger in the opener. They went 11-3 last year and reached the state 1-A semifinals.
“They are extremely skilled on the perimeter at wide receiver, quarterback and running back,” Brindley said. “They are extremely physical at the line of scrimmage.”
Rylee Anderson gained 1,965 yards and scored 32 touchdowns last year for Robbinsville. He has 4,130 yards and 52 TDs in his career.
Anderson has speed, as does his fellow running back, Lex Hooper.
“Hooper can go to the house from anywhere on the field,” Brindley said. “He’s sometimes overshadowed by Anderson, but I think he is just as skilled.”
Quarterback Nathan Collins directs the offense for veteran Coach Dee Walsh.
“He’s a skilled player who can run and throw,” Brindley said. “He is very effective with his legs and his arm.”
Clayson Lane is the top wide receiver.
Aaron Phillips (6-1, 230) is a two-way lineman who has impressed Brindley. He plays offensive tackle and defensive end.
Robbinsville uses multiple sets offensively but operates much of the time out of the I.
The Knights utilize a 4-4 defense.
“It starts at the line of scrimmage for us,” Brindley said of having success Friday. “If we can control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, I think we’ve got an opportunity to get into the fourth quarter and win the football game.”
The Mustangs have won four of the five games in the series, including 27-26 in the last meeting in 2016.
SM scrimmaged West Henderson at home Aug. 13.
“I felt we had some positive things, but we also found some things that we need to get better at,” Brindley said. “We didn’t make some adjustments that we needed to.”
He was pleased with the defense, which held the Falcons scoreless until late in the game with reserves on the field.
“I thought we flew to the ball well,” Brindley said. “We gang-tackled for the most part, and when we had opportunities to make solo tackles we did.”
He added, “We had some penalties that we’ve got to clean up to not stall drives.”
The Mustangs went 8-4 last year for their most wins since going 9-3 in 1992.
The probable starting lineup for Friday is as follows:
Offense – Wide receivers, junior Dustin Stephens, senior Mitch Wike and sophomore Darian Bird; H back, senior Danner Hill; running back, senior Will Frady; quarterback, junior Caleb Lominac; left tackle, senior Wyatt Beasley; left guard, senior Jackson Speir; center, senior Bengie Dillard; right guard, senior Clayton Frady; right tackle, senior Mason Fisher.
Defense – Cornerbacks, Wike and junior Rocky Magestro; free safety, Stephens; strong safety, senior Derrick Farmer; linebackers, Hill, senior Damon Figueroa and junior Chris Wilburn; defensive ends, Clayton Frady and senior Parker Flynn; defensive tackles, junior Lawson Wike and sophomore Colin Crowe.
Special teams – Kickoffs, field goals and extra points, junior Hunter Pressley; holder, Stephens; long snapper, junior Cooper Sanders; punter, Stephens; punt and kickoff returns, Stephens and Farmer.
Flynn will be used at tight end and Magestro at wide receiver depending on the offensive formation. Junior Cole James at linebacker and junior Daniel Melton in the secondary are expected to see significant action. Wilburn is the backup quarterback.
Pisgah is the defending Mountain Six Conference champion. SM finished tied with Brevard for second place last year.
“Until somebody proves they can beat Pisgah, you’ve got to consider them the frontrunner,” Brindley said.
Other teams the Mustangs are likely to be contending with are Brevard, which made a surprise run to the state 2-A semifinals, and Hendersonville, which returns quarterback Woodson Hunter.
The coaching staff is as follows:
Defensive coordinator, Jarrod Boone; offensive line, David Pressley and Ty Dengler; wide receivers, Zeb Capps; defensive line, Shane Williams; linebackers, Garrett Jones; defensive backs, Tony Quinn.
Capps will be JV head coach. He will be assisted by former players Devon Stephens and Emmitt Baldwin.
The schedule is as follows:
Aug. 23 – Robbinsville; 30 – at Swain.
Sept. 6 – at Cherokee; 13 – Rosman; 20 – Madison (homecoming); 27 – Tuscola.
Oct.11 – at Pisgah; 18 – Hendersonville; 25 – at Brevard.
Nov. 1 – at East Henderson; 8 – Franklin.
The JV schedule is as follows:
Aug. 22 – at Franklin.
Sept. 5 – Enka; 12 – at Owen; 26 – at Mitchell.
Oct. 3 – Hendersonville; 10 – Pisgah; 17 –
at Hendersonville; 24 – Brevard; 31 – East Henderson.
Nov. 7 – at Franklin.
The middle school
schedule is as follows:
Aug. 29 – at Apple Valley.
Sept. 5 – at Rugby; 12 – at Canton; 19 – Bethel; 26 – Madison.
Oct. 3 – Waynesville; 10 – at Macon; 17 – playoff game.