Thursday Night Lights: West Henderson vs. North Buncombe
No matter how you look at it, the numbers aren’t pretty for North Buncombe High football.
A 17-game losing streak dating back to 2015 is WNC’s longest. The roster, thanks to a run of season-ending injuries nearing double figures, is down to less than two dozen, barely enough to field a team.
Black Hawks coach Brandon Allen, hired just prior to the season, is back for a second stint with the program and has yet to win a game in 14 attempts.
But as the numbers get ever gloomier, Allen insists he and his players remain optimistic that better times are coming.
On this week’s edition of the “Thursday Night Lights,” North Buncombe (0-3) hosts West Henderson (2-1) on MY 40 that begins at 7 p.m. and serves as the opening game of the Western Mountain Athletic Conference season.
“I was telling a friend of mine that I’m supposed to be teaching these kids about life, but in watching how they are dealing with all this adversity, I think I’m the one learning a lot from them,” said Allen, who was the North Buncombe coach for one season (0-11 in 2011) and began his second tenure earlier this summer when Curtis Cagle left in June.
“We’re down to 22, 23 healthy bodies we can dress. We’ve had eight or nine season-ending injuries, so it’s been pretty tough.
“But we have the right kids, who come to work every day with a purpose. We are not going to start feeling sorry for ourselves because we’ve had a lot of adversity, and that’s a testament to our kids.”
One player who has remained hale and hearty is tailback Nick Lisenbee, who has rushed 56 times for 459 yards and four scores.
West Henderson, ranked 10th in the WLOS WNC Top 10 Poll, is off to a fast start thanks to a strong running game that shares the wealth. The Falcons have rushed for 778 yards and eight scores without any one runner gaining more than 225 yards or scoring more than twice.
Coach Paul Whitaker’s “running back by committee” is paced by a trio of seniors – Trenton Gasperson (223 yards rushing), Elijah Nickell (199 yards) and Jason Wallace (185 yards).
“We have a slew of runners about the same height, weight and speed, and with them playing both ways, we try to get a back the ball with fresh legs,” said Whitaker.
“We’re fortunate that we have those kids and people can’t really key on any one because we’re not sure who’s going to get the ball. They compete with each other and joke with each other about how many yards they get, but they are also good blockers who work for each other.”
Quarterback Dalton Cole, who left last week’s 51-21 win at East Henderson with a shoulder injury, is expected to play this week.
Despite North Buncombe’s struggles, Whitaker expects a battle Thursday night.
“Anytime you play a team (directed) by coach Allen, you know his kids are going to be well prepared and play hard.
“They are going to play just like us – run it right at the other team and slug it out.”
West Henderson High used a punishing ground game to subdue North Buncombe 42-7 on MY 40 in the weekly "Thursday Night Lights" game in Weaverville.
The Falcons (3-1, 1-0) finished with more than 500 yards of offense, including 463 on the ground, to key the victory. Elijah Nickell ran for 223 yards to pace the West Henderson rushing game.
Nick Lisenbee ran for 112 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown sprint, for the Black Hawks (0-4, 0-1).
"Thursday Night Lights" on MY 40 travels to Brevard this week. The Blue Devils will host Owen in a 7 p.m. kickoff.
If you missed the game- you can check the highlights below! Don't forget to enter to win a $25 Bojangles gift card honoring our top plays of the week here.