By Carey Phillips

COVID-19 issues at Robbinsville have led to the cancellation of Smoky Mountain’s road football game with the Black Knights on Friday.

Rather than trying to find another opponent, the Mustangs (2-1) will take the week off. They will use the open date to get a head start for the Mountain Seven Conference opener against Pisgah on Sept. 17.

That game will be played at Erwin due to damage at Pisgah Memorial Stadium from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred last month.

Coach Ricky Brindley said his team was to practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, while taking Monday and Friday off.

“They need a little break,” he said.

SM began preparing for the Bears Tuesday.

“I’ve already got every film that they played this year, scrimmages and everything,” he said Monday. “I’ve already got the game plan together. We’re going to start working on that Tuesday.”

SM bounced back from a loss to Swain with a 33-12 victory over Roberson last Friday at Carr Hooper Stadium/Babe Howell Field.

“It seemed like we learned a little bit from our mistakes the week before,” Brindley said. “We were able to eliminate, for the most part, some of things that we just can’t overcome.

“I thought we played harder than we did against Swain,” he added. “I thought we were more violent at the point of attack. We had a real good week of practice up front as far as trying to get back to who we are supposed to be, which is a hard-nosed football team. I think we were more hard-nosed than Roberson.”

He singled out linebacker Clayton Dillard and receiver Darien Bird for their play against the Rams.

“Clayton Dillard played his rear end off,” Brindley said. “That is a kid who has never played linebacker until this year and has continued to get better every day. It was very obvious Friday night.”

Bird caught nine passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.

“Darien Bird does things for our team that most people will never see from a leadership standpoint, and you throw on top of that the fact that he had a great night catching the football,” Brindley said. “I was very pleased with him in all facets.”