Pisgah football has won its eighth game in a row against cross-county rival Tuscola.
The teams hit the field in front of a relatively small yet enthusiastic crowd of just over 2,000 fans. While the fanfare wasn’t quite what spectators would normally expect, there was still a surprise in store as just a couple of minutes before kickoff, a barrage of fireworks, sponsored by Champion Credit Union, filled the air above Pisgah Memorial Stadium.
As it drizzled on and off throughout the night, both Pisgah and Tuscola had occasional trouble hanging onto the ball, and multiple fumbles led to turnovers for both teams. But while both teams showed signs of strength at the line of scrimmage, at the end of the day, it was Pisgah that won the battle in the trenches and came away with a convincing 44-14 win.
It was clear from the outset that Pisgah was intent to run the ball with as much as possible, and it worked. Just two minutes into the game, quarterback Cain Early, who played receiver and running back last year, took the ball around off the left tackle and found a big enough hole that once he got through, no Mountaineer defenders could catch him as he went untouched 63 yards into the end zone. Then, just two minutes later, Early found pay dirt again on a one-yard quarterback sneak. After a missed extra point, the score just four minutes in was 13-0.
Although Pisgah was able to get in the red zone on the next two possessions, the team were unable to score, once turning the ball over on downs while also losing a fumble. However, The Bears still did manage to points on the board near the end of the first quarter when Tuscola lost a fumble out the back of Pisgah’s end zone for a safety to give the home team a 15-0 lead.
Just as it was looking like Tuscola wasn’t going to pick up any steam, on 3rd and 10, quarterback Jared Penland, an Erwin transfer, lobbed a deep ball just over the outstretched hands of two Pisgah defenders to connect with Jesse Delcambre for 61 yards. Within a minute, running back Garrett Fox trotted into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown run. With the successful two-point conversion, Tuscola cut the Pisgah lead to just 7.
But Pisgah still had more to offer before the break. After a methodical drive that featured a consistent running game with multiple ball carriers, The Bears were able to draw within a few yards of the end zone, which was just enough room for Early to punch the ball in for this third rushing touchdown of the half. Following the two-point conversion, the score going into the break would be 23-8.
Although Tuscola went three and out on its first drive of the second half, on Pisgah’s second play of the half, The Mountaineers forced an Early fumble, which landed right into the welcoming arms of linebacker Conner Medina, who took the ball 21 yards for a touchdown. Following a failed two-point conversion, the score was 23-14, Pisgah.
Pisgah proved intent to bounce back, as just a couple of plays after allowing the defensive touchdown, receiver Devan Dodgin took the ball to the left on a jet sweep, got around the edge and took it all the way to the house for a 62-yard touchdown run. With the extra point, the team again expanded its lead to 16 points. Another Early quarterback sneak just a few minutes later, along with the extra point, gave Pisgah a 37-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
From there, Pisgah kept rushing the ball and executed a couple of long drives that brought the game well into the fourth quarter. After a Tuscola turnover on downs with about five minutes remaining, Pisgah was able to run down the clock to seal the win and even added a late Louis Mehaffey rushing touchdown.
Check back for a full recap, including interviews with Pisgah head coach Brett Chappell and Tuscola head coach Chris Brookshire.