Brett Chappell hasn’t lost to Tuscola as long as he’s been the head football coach at Pisgah.
But that isn’t really a concern of his as he readies his team for this year’s iteration of the county clash, which is well-known as one of the best high school football rivalries in the south, if not the country.
This year will be the 56th that The Bears and The Mountaineers have squared off. Since Chappell took the helm back in 2013, he has yet to lose a game to his cross-county rivals, but he is well aware that even the greatest streaks in sports are eventually broken.
“Any kind of streak you have going, eventually those things will happen,” he said. “I don’t think you prepare for that kind of thing. You prepare to move forward and win a ballgame.”
To take it a step further, while Chappell and his team play to win and prepare as well as they can, he relishes the chance to compete in such a legendary contest.
“We’re just excited about having an opportunity to coach in this game one more time,” he said. “These players get to play in it, but they only get so many of these.”
All the same, while he wants his team to be focused, he’s made sure to tell his players to enjoy the week and all that comes with it.
“I think the daily focus, you’ve got a lot of distractions because of everything going on … from the pep rally Friday and spirit days,” he said. “We always tell our kids they need to enjoy being a kid at school. They only get the one opportunity to go to high school. I don’t want to take away from that because of the ballgame. However, we do expect them to come in focused Friday at 3:30.”
In last year’s contest at Pisgah, Tuscola took it to Pisgah early on, and as the physical contest wore on, The Bears outlasted the Mountaineers for a 20-10 victory. But this year’s teams look much different. Tuscola, with its senior-heavy roster, brings loads of experience into the game, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.
Chappell also talked about The Mountaineers’ athleticism at some key positions.
“You’ve got some good athletes they have as well, their skill players and quarterback,” he said.
Last week, Tuscola traveled about three hours to the Chattanooga area, where the team took on the Rhea County Golden Eagles, a 5A powerhouse, in its season opener and fell 34-10. While that is the only game The Mountaineers have played this season, Pisgah has two games under its belt, a hard-fought loss at Murphy, and a dominant home win over Enka last weekend.
In the win over Enka, Pisgah showed improvement in several areas, especially its passing game. While quarterback Korey Griffith struggled under pressure from Murphy’s enormous defensive line, against Enka, he had more protection, and ultimately went 8-for-16 for 157 yards and three touchdowns, while also carrying the ball seven times for 22 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Notably, the bulk of his completions came in the second half, during which he showed tremendous improvement.
However, during that game, running back Levi Cagle left the game with a left ankle injury. Chappell said Cagle will not play tonight as the team awaits results from his MRI. While Hunter Cseledy, who split carries with Cagle at Murphy and before Cagle was injured against Enka, will likely receive the bulk of the carries, Chappell wouldn’t say on the record who else might help fill in at running back.
Chappell said he is happy to have played one more game than Tuscola. While the players may show the wear and tear that came with playing two highly-physical games, it also gave the team a chance to better understand what is and isn’t working and make the necessary schematic changes.
“I feel like we got a chance to work out more kinks,” he said. “I thought we made some really good adjustments from week one to week two.”
“But there’s still things we have to clean up and do better to win close ballgames,” Chappell added.
The County Clash kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Weatherby stadium near Waynesville Middle School.