Coming off its first loss at home against Hendersonville, Pisgah took to Franklin to get back on track; and get back on track the Bears did, topping the Panthers, 34-11.
Franklin, which beat Hendersonville, 31-27, in its first Mountain Six game of the season, was one of three one-loss teams heading into last Friday’s contest — the others being Pisgah and Hendersonville — each team with an outside hope of at least sharing the conference championship and even earning a potential playoff berth.
While the Bears were initially slow to build momentum against the Panthers, after scoring just before halftime to take a 7-3 lead, Pisgah came out rolling in the second 24 minutes, putting up 27 points to Franklin’s eight.
“Against Hendersonville, I think we had an opportunity to take the momentum and keep it,” said head coach Brett Chappell. “We really stressed that last week. We scored right before halftime, and then we went into the locker room and said, ‘we have the momentum, and now we have to keep it as long as we can.’”
Offensively, the Bears threw for 62 yards but amassed over 400 total yards, meaning the rushing game, created in large part by the strength of the guys up front, was as effective as ever. Also characteristic was the balance Pisgah brought to its ground attack with the likes of quarterback Cain Early and running backs Levi Cagle and Ian Rogers picking up plenty of yardage.
“Our line continues to do a good job,” Chappell said. “And being able to have different people that can carry the ball makes it hard to key in on just one kid.”
The defense also shined throughout the game at all levels. Having one of his strongest games of the year was linebacker Bailey Stockton, who was all over the line of scrimmage and spent plenty of time in Franklin’s backfield. However, Chappell was quick to point out that on many of those plays, Stockton was getting through the line clean, which he attributes to the hard work of the guys up front. Chappell specifically mentioned Bryson Davis, who at over 300 pounds, has a serious presence up front.
“And he doesn’t’ move like someone who’s that big,” Chappell said, noting that his size belies his quickness. “You have to double-team him, you just have to, and that’s one less blocker to get on a linebacker.”
The Bears’ secondary also had possibly its strongest game of the season, as well. Down Devan Dodgin, who suffered a broken collarbone against East Henderson, it has been imperative that others step up — and step up they did. Lucas Whitted, Evan Easton, Louis Mehaffey and Logan Free all managed strong performances, from covering receivers to providing occasionally needed tackling support, those cornerbacks and safeties had Franklin’s number.
“Our guys back there did a really good job,” Chappell said. “When Devan went down, we had some kids that had to fill in. We’ve been balanced all the way through.”
The one noticeable flaw in Pisgah’s game was the penalty yardage the Bears amassed. While there were some questionable calls, there were also quite a few where clear mental errors led to flags and gave Franklin an advantage.
“You run into situations where there are self-inflicted things,” Chappell said. “Those are the penalties that really get you, especially when something happens after the play. Those are things we can control, especially when something’s happening after the whistle. It creates issues as far as field position, and in those close games you can’t afford that.”