AshevilleLocal News: Asheville and Hendersonville

Buncombe’s year-of-the-quarterback

Alex Flinn is WNC’s reigning top passer. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

The premier passer in all of WNC last year was Alex Flinn of A.C. Reynolds. He had plenty of practice, as ACR reached the 3AA state title game — and is hungry to go one step further.

Flinn threw for nearly 4,000 yards and for 40 touchdowns in ‘17 to set ACR marks. He said he is now throwing harder and more accurately. He looks again to back-flanker I’dre Bell. They connected on a 68-yard TD play early in the West Region title game’s second half. That launched Reynold’s comeback from nine down, to triumph.

The same rugged approach is with T.C. Roberson QB Ty Gossett, who is even bigger at 6-3 1/2 and 220. He is quicker than before. Gossett was fourth in aerial yardage in WNC in ’17 overall, and second behind Flinn among passers back for ‘18. He passed for 2,528 yards and 26 TDs. He again will link with Kobe Miles for many long gains. Gossett and Flinn are seniors.

TCR head coach Jason Dinwiddie said Gossett “can make all the throws.” And as the field general, “Ty gets guys up-tempo, to where they need to be.”

The Rams lost five games by a total of 12 points last year. Gossett said they are eager to get back at teams that beat them starting with Asheville in the WMAC opener at home. “We want to show how good we really are.”

Two other rising QB stars are juniors. Asheville’s Three Hillier is the fourth-best returning passer with nearly 2,000 yards. Hillier spoke to The Tribune on his 17th birthday, on Aug. 1. The hard-throwing baseball catcher said he felt rattled in the ’17 WMAC opener, at home versus Roberson. He was pulled out of that one.

But he settled in, and felt “much more comfortable” starting in the next week in a blowout win over rival Erwin. His head coach, David Burdette, noted Hillier consistently passed for over 200 yards and even versus lofty Reynolds.

“When I’m in a groove,” Hillier said, “I can throw hard as I can” between defenders to reach his receiver.

The most crucial WMAC win for Asheville was a comeback versus over Tuscola to ensure second in the WMAC and a playoff berth. AHS was down 17-0 to THS. “I wouldn’t let us lose,” Hillier said. “We kicked it in gear” and won. He has a pair of big and big-time receivers in Tre’Von Robinson and Famous Pasley. Such weapons makes Asheville seem the WMAC team with the best chance of upsetting Reynolds.

Erwin also racks up points, and contends with its own junior QB. Kendrick Weaver has dynamic Simeon Thompson to throw to — even on off days, when they practice on their own. “We work every day, to get on the same page,” Weaver said. he threw merely two interceptions in’17, in his WMAC debut. The stocky junior from Owen runs perhaps even better than those other QBs do.

“He’s a ‘gamer,’” EHS Coach Rodney Pruett said. “He may miss some reads in practice. But when the lights come on, he’s as sharp as any we’ve had.” Weaver has much bravado. He quipped perennial contender Erwin enjoys giving newer and second-tier WMAC teams a “good beating.”

The other two Buncombe teams in the WMAC have newer QBs. Enka counts on Shannon Gacusana to run its new option attack, by reading defensive pursuit to decide who and where to get the ball to or whether to keep it. The junior throws well on quick sprint outs, Coach Jeff Frady said. He added, “we’ll take some shots (downfield), with play-action passes.”

North Buncombe fiery senior Caden Higgins runs well. “Caden is making great reads and throws,” his coach Brandon Allen said. Higgins cannot wait for the chance early to finally beat rival Madison.

Owen as the smallest public high school in Buncombe is outside the WMAC, and instead in the Western Highlands. The Warhorse QB is senior Auden Meyers. “Auden is tough as nails. He’s a competitor, steady and a mature leader,” said Owen head coach Nathan Padgett.

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