Feature photo courtesy of Haley’s Photography
It’s crazy to think that we are already 1/3 of the way through the season, but here we are staring down the barrel of week 4. All six Smoky Mountain Conference teams are set to play tomorrow night, and we are about to take a deep dive into each game and how they could turn out.
Week 4 FYNSports SMC Rankings
2. Swain Co.
Robbinsville vs Alleghany
Both the Black Knights and the Trojans are coming off of hard fought games a week ago. Robbinsville went to Burnsville and came away with an 11 point victory over Mountain Heritage, while Alleghany lost by one score on the road against Mitchell. Robbinsville is a two touchdown favorite over Alleghany according to the computers, and I think that is pretty accurate considering where we are at in the season. If Robbinsville was at full strength then I think this would be a 3 or 4 score game, but due to the fact the Knights are traveling to Sparta and we don’t know who is going to be starting on the OLine Friday night, it could be a little closer than we thought at the beginning of the year.
What to watch for:
Alleghany Senior quarterback Mack LeMasters is the straw that stirs the drink for the Trojans. LeMasters is averaging 123 pass yards and 67 rush yards per game this season and last week vs Mitchell he played his best game yet- posting a line of 116 passing yards and 111 rushing yards while finding the endzone twice. Another option for the Trojans offensively is Senior running back Blake Proffit who did not suit up for Alleghany last week. In his only full game this season Proffit rushed 29 times for 222 yards and 3 scores, and the Trojans have been unable to replicate that kind of success on the ground in his absence. While the Trojans best option offensively might be their dual-threat quarterback, I don’t think they’ve seen a defensive front 7 quite like Robbinsville possesses. The Black Knights have only given up 193 yards per game to start the season, with a good chunk of those yards coming in garbage time in the first 2 games. I look for the Robbinsville linebacker core to limit LeMasters ability to extend plays and make things happen with his feet, which should in turn extinguish Alleghany’s chances of moving the football consistently.
Offensively for the Knights, I think we may see quarterback Donovan Carpenter put the ball in the air a little more than we have seen so far this season. After watching the Alleghany’s game last week vs Mitchell, Mitchell was able to put up some pretty good numbers through the passing game (12/18 for 168 yards). Don’t be surprised if the Black Knights use their running game to get Alleghany to stack the box before taking a couple shots downfield.
Prediction: Robbinsville 28 Alleghany 14
Murphy vs Smoky Mountain
Neither Murphy nor Smoky Mountain are coming off of their best showing their last time out on the field. Smoky Mountain is coming off of a 35-7 loss to TC Roberson, and Murphy is coming off of a 56-13 thrashing vs Commerce. Smoky Mountain was unable to get anything going offensively against TC Roberson and Murphy was unable to stop Commerce’s run game a few weeks ago. This is a must win game for both teams with each of them having tough opponents the following week.
What to watch for:
Like I said earlier, Murphy was crippled by the Commerce running game last time they were on the field. While Smoky Mountain doesn’t have quite the stable of backs the Tigers did, all-conference stars Isaiah Mcneely and Da’mare Williams will be a tough one-two punch for the Murphy defense to bring down. Since former standout QB Jed West’s departure to Tuscola, the mustangs have not been as successful through the air this season, even moving D-1 wide receiver Da’Mare Williams to running back at times. I would venture to guess they will maintain that strategy on Friday night, opting to keep the Bulldogs on their toes by throwing Williams out there in different formations.
For Murphy, this is a good chance for this team to find their identity. Offensively you know things run through Hunter Stalcup, but who is going to step up on the defensive side of things and prove that they are “THE” guy for the Dogs? There has yet to be a Bulldog defender this season that has stood out to me as the leader. Someone is going to have to stand up and bring the “juice” on Friday night. We need to see a Mason Thrasher type of intensity to rally troops when things get tough.
Murphy should be able to rectify some things in this one and wipe the slate clean. With their bye week coming so early in the year it’s almost like the season is starting over, and that might not be a bad thing. This will still be a close one, but with the Mustangs giving up nearly 400 yards on the ground last week to TC Roberson I look for Hunter Stalcup and the Murphy running backs to lead the Dogs to a 31-21 victory.
Prediction: Murphy 31 Smoky Mountain 21
Hayesville vs Pisgah
This is a game that will be a lot closer than most people think. Hayesville’s new look offense fits their athletes very well this year and their line has shown massive improvements. While Hayesville has not necessarily been tested this year, neither has Pisgah. This will be the toughest game either team has played and if Hayesville can take care of the football, this could be a one score game.
What to watch for:
Pisgah throws the football about 15-17 times per game, and they complete those passes at a high percentage. The Yellow Jacket secondary will be tested for sure. But if the likes of Taylor McClure, Tre Graves, Will Brown, and Lane O’Dell can get pressure on the quarterback, it should give Hayesville’s defensive secondary a chance to make a play. Hayesville has to make sure the Bears are unsuccessful in running the football if they want to stay in this game. If Pisgah is able to move the ball both through the air and on the ground, this could go south fast. Hayesville needs to crash hard defensively and stop the run and hope their Dbacks are able to make plays when they are in coverage. Limit Pisgah to one option offensively, and your offense should be able to score with theirs.
Offensively, Hayesville is doing a great job of spreading the ball around this season. They no longer have to force feed Taylor McClure as the feature back with the emergence of Sophomore Tre Graves. McClure and Graves compliment each other well, and if Tate Roberts can find his footing at quarterback the Jackets offense could be potent. That being said, Roberts is going to have to come into his own on Friday night. A repeat performance of last week is not going to fly against the Bears. Hayesville is going to have to complete a couple passes down the stretch to keep Pisgah honest and allow the Jacket backfield some room to breath.
Pisgah wins this one late in the fourth thanks to a Jacket turnover.
Prediction: Pisgah 35 Hayesville 24
Swain @ Tuscola
A homecoming for Devils head coach Sherman Holt as he travels to Waynesville where he was on the Tuscola staff just a few years ago. Swain County enters the contest riding high as they have defeated Franklin, Smoky Mountain, and Charlotte Country Day to start the season. While Swain may enter the game undefeated, this will be their toughest test of the year thus far. This game will tell a lot about the Devils and what to expect from them down the stretch.
What to watch for:
The Mountaineers are going to sling the ball all over Waynesville on Friday night. Quarterback Jed West has thrown for over 4,000 yards in his career and has shown no signs of slowing down in his senior campaign, throwing for 536 yards and 6 TDs in his first three games. Swain should be able to make West uncomfortable though, as they sport perhaps the best DLine in Western North Carolina. Nse Uffort, Grady Lewis, & LD Lequire should be in the Tuscola backfield all night, forcing Tuscola to alter their gameplan. Swain’s physicality on D should allow them to keep the Tuscola scoring at a minimum.
BUT- When you play a team that tosses the rock around like Tuscola does, there’s always a chance they light up the scoreboard. If Swain is unable to get pressure on West and Tuscola is comfortable and the Swain offense commits a few turnovers, this could get ugly.
Swain’s offense has struggled with taking care of the football, and that carries back to last year, too. They seem to be heading in the right direction offensively, already rushing for over 300 yards twice in 3 games (a feat they accomplished 0 times last season), but they still have a ways to go.
If Swain can lean on their defense and take care of the football (& have long drives) on offense, they win this game. If it turns into a shootout, they will not be able to keep up with the Tuscola air-raid.
Prediction: Swain 21 – Tuscola 14
Andrews vs Mitchell
The Cats have had Mitchell’s number for the previous two years now, defeating the Mountaineers 26-14 in 2021 and 44-27 in 2022. This game being in the Valley gives Andrews a huge boost, but Mitchell has a chip on their shoulder having lost to Andrews in back to back seasons.
What to watch for:
The answer of what to watch for in this one is simple: #5 in red and black, Dalton Rose. Rose has been an outstanding addition to the Andrews offense, and with the uncertainty of quarterback Everett Tatham’s health going into Friday night, it will be interesting to see how much of the load that Rose has to shoulder offensively. Andrews needs Rose to be his normal self on defense with what Mitchell brings to the table, but if he is having to be the focal point of the offense then he might not be able to go 100% on both sides of the ball.
Mitchell doesn’t have the game-breaking quarterback they have had the previous two times these two have met, as the Mountaineers much like Andrews are reloading a bit due to what they lost to graduation. Still, Mitchell will be by far and away the best team that Andrews has faced up and to this point. Chase Duncan and Rylan Roper will be the primary ball carriers out of a Mountaineer backfield that is averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground. Mitchell seems to have a good mix on offense, as Junior QB Caleb Cook has thrown for right at 100 yards per game so far this season.
Andrews will have to play their brand of football in order to win this game for the third time in a row. By monotonously pounding the rock and keeping things simple, Andrews should be looking at a three peat over Mitchell. Last weeks game vs Alleghany exposed some holes in the Mountaineers defense, and I think Andrews should be able to take advantage of those holes. I would not be shocked if we saw Dalton Rose come out in the Wildcat formation under center, especially with the success Alleghany had with the QB run vs Mitchell.
Prediction: Andrews 35 Mitchell 28
Cherokee vs Rosman
Probably the least exciting game on the docket this week, Cherokee comes into this game as a 22-point favorite over the Tigers. Coming off of an “upset” victory last week in Mississippi in the Battle of The Nations, the Cherokee faithful are riding high, and deservedly so. This game should be over early, as the Braves passing game will be too much for Rosman to handle.
Prediction: Cherokee 41 – Rosman 7