By Carey Phillips
West Henderson will visit Carr Hooper Stadium/Babe Howell Field on Friday for a Mountain Seven Conference football game.
Kickoff time is 7:30 p.m., and the game will wrap up a week of homecoming festivities.
“They present some challenges due to the fact that their quarterback throws it as well as anybody we’ve seen,” Smoky Mountain Coach Ricky Brindley said.
Lukas Kachilo had not played for the Falcons (1-4, 1-1) this season until the last two weeks due to injury. He has committed to play baseball for N.C. State.
While Kachilo was out, John Manuel filled in as the signal caller. He has returned to his regular position at wide receiver and had 15 catches in Friday’s 41-7 win over East Henderson.
“He’s a really good receiver,” Brindley said. “He does a great job getting open and has great hands.”
Coach Paul Whitaker’s team uses a spread offense and a 4-3 defense.
“We’ve got to again be able to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” Brindley said. “We’ve got to get pressure on their quarterback and force him into some errant throws. We need to sustain drives on offense.”
Prior to the victory over East, West had lost to Chase (54-21), Hendersonville (58-0), Polk (26-14) and North Henderson (40-14).
The only common opponent is North, a team the Mustangs (3-2, 1-1) defeated 49-26 Friday.
Speaking of homecoming, Brindley said, “It’s always an exciting week for our students, fans and community. I’ve enjoyed every one of them the years I’ve been here.”
SM holds a 7-5 edge in the series and won the last meeting, 41-7, in 2016.
In Friday’s victory over North, Isaiah McNeely tied a school record with five rushing touchdowns and ran for 297 yards.
“He earned those yards,” Brindley said. “He broke tackles and had yards after contact.
“You’ve got to give credit to our offensive line,” Brind-ley said. “Once we stopped trying to be cute we allowed our offensive line to take over. They certainly did, and Isaiah ran hard and angry.”
The defense held the Knights to six points in the second half.
“Our defense responded in the second half,” the coach said. “We were not very happy at halftime. They were the aggressor when they had the ball, and that was very frustrating. In the second half we tackled much better and pursued the football much better, and it showed on the scoreboard.”
He singled out linebacker Talon Magestro and defensive back Max Buchanan for their play.
Buchanan had the team’s first interception of the season and returned it 45 yards to the 1.
Jay Lacy, who had been sidelined earlier in the season with an injury, sustained a broken hand and could be out for the season.
“He had worked hard and was getting playing time,” Brindley said. “I really hate it for that kid.”