Pisgah fans made the trip and packed the stands at Enka High School to cheer on the Black Bears as they won their first “home” game of the season 38-14 against Pickens (SC) Friday night.
“I thought we had a really good crowd,” Pisgah head coach Brett Chappell said postgame. “I kind of expected us to travel really well, it was a great night to have a football game. I’m certainly proud of our community and our fans for coming out and supporting these kids.”
Hosting the Blue Flame (2-1) at Enka due to the destruction Tropical Storm Fred caused at Pisgah’s (3-0) home field, the Bears turned an early second quarter 14-0 deficit into a runaway victory on the legs of quarterback Logan Free and running backs Ian Rogers and Dez Rodriguez, all of whom rushed for over 100 yards each and combined for five touchdowns.
“Coach Morgan, who’s our offensive line coach, told the running backs they better buy those linemen some dinner tonight because they certainly moved the line of scrimmage for us,” Chappell said.
Pickens struck first when defensive back Ziondre Clark scooped up a Pisgah fumble and took it all the way to the end zone, giving his team a 7-0 advantage at the 7:16 mark in the opening quarter.
The Blue Flame defense forced a three-and-out before putting together a nearly nine-minute scoring drive, which was punctuated by a fourth down rushing touchdown from inches away by Brennan Perkins to give Pickens a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
“I thought we came out strong,” Pickens head coach Chad Smith said. “I thought Pisgah came out and did what Pisgah does, they’re a good football team and they punched us and it took us a little bit too long to respond.”
From there, it was all Pisgah. Just over a minute of game time later, Rogers broke free for a 39-yard touchdown. Luke Pinkston knocked the extra point through the uprights to cut the deficit to 14-7.
On the Blue Flame’s next offensive play, tight end C.J. Hooper caught a pass and picked up a nice gain across midfield before Free came flying in and snatched the football out of Hooper’s arms for a forced fumble and recovery.
“It was just like we didn’t look back after that,” Chappell said.
Several minutes later, Free finished the drive he started with a three-yard touchdown to tie it up at 14 apiece with 1:34 left before halftime.
Pickens quickly drove all the way to the Pisgah 16 yard line with 2.7 seconds left in the half, but opted to go for the end zone rather than kick the field goal. Pisgah’s defense forced an incompletion and went to the break in a tie ball game.
If they hadn’t already, the Black Bears immediately seized momentum to start the second half. Free got loose for a 62-yard house call on the first play of the half to give Pisgah its first lead at 21-14.
On the first play of the Bears’ next possession, Rogers scored his second long touchdown of the night from 45 yards out to make it 28-14 with 7:31 left in the third. On the first two Pisgah offensive plays of the second half, the Bears picked up 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
“We found something that we felt like we could be successful with and really got after it,” Chappell said. “The kids did a really good job. We obviously didn’t just come up with some magic potion, but it was one of those things where we blocked it right and the backs hit it where they needed to.”
For the second straight possession, Pisgah’s defense forced Pickens into a turnover on downs and the Black Bears took over at the Blue Flame 40 yard line.
Pisgah drove down inside the 10 before stalling out. Pinkston converted a 24-yard field goal into three points, increasing the lead to 31-14 with under two left in the third.
The fourth quarter was mostly a defensive battle, save for the 93-yard touchdown sprint from Rodriguez with 2:32 left to go, making it 38-14. Pickens ran out of time after crossing midfield and the Black Bears improved to 3-0.
“Give Pisgah all the credit in the world,” Smith said. “Coach Chappell does an amazing job with those guys. In my opinion, he’s one of the best coaches in either Carolina.”
Rogers led the trio of Pisgah rushers with 144 yards on 10 carries. Rodriguez was the most efficient of the three, gaining 110 yards on seven carries. Free racked up 108 yards on 11 carries while running the offense as QB1 and forcing the pivotal first half fumble to go along with a fourth quarter interception, accounting for two touchdowns and two turnovers.
“Obviously we start conference play next week, so tonight was a big night for us moving forward,’’ Chappell said. “We really needed to play really well tonight to have some momentum going into next week’s game.”
The Bears are set to host Smoky Mountain at Erwin Friday at 7:30 p.m.