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Originally published: 2012-09-26 12:33:51
Last modified: 2012-09-26 12:37:30

Vikings seek home upset of streaking Bearcats

Jamie Shell / (sports@averyjournal.com)

After four consecutive losses, including a Homecoming defeat to Thomas Jefferson Academy last week, the Avery Vikings (2-4, 0-2 WHC) host perhaps the most-talented team in the Western Highlands Conference this Friday, Sept. 28, when the Hendersonville Bearcats come to Newland. Hendersonville (5-1, 2-0 WHC) defeated previously unbeaten Madison 44-21 at home last week. The Bearcats defeated Avery 48-28 in Hendersonville last season and has won four of the last five contests against the Vikings.

Scouting the Bearcats
The Hendersonville Bearcats are coached by 16th year head coach B.J. Laughter and finished with a 10-3 record in 2011. HHS returns many of the key performers from last season’s club in 2012, including senior quarterback Grant Rivers. The two-time state 1A high jump champion, Rivers went 100-for-185 passing for 1,882 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior, mostly targeted to a pair of receivers D.J. Wilson and Shawn Rogers. Rivers also had 71 rushes for 304 yards and one touchdown last season. The signal caller has passed the 1,200-yard passing mark and 300-yard rushing mark already through six games this season, including a 318-yard passing performance on 15-for-25 passing in last week’s win against Madison.
Despite losing 13 seniors to graduation following last season, the Bearcats quickly adjusted and reloaded on both sides of the football. Hendersonville’s speed makes its I-formation and shotgun offensive formations a handful to slow down, as Wilson and Rogers provide passing threats to Rivers, while, if needed, Rivers can use his legs to hurt opponents.
The Bearcats has also shown potency in its rushing game with DeSean Jackson, who has rushed for 808 yards and 12 touchdowns thus far in 2012. Rogers has chipped in with six rushing touchdowns as well.
Defensively, Hendersonville utilizes multiple defensive formations led by state wrestling champion and lineman Rhett Hoy. A key loss on the line prior to the opening of the season was Dakota Shook, who was sidelined with a knee injury. The Bearcats has compensated for the loss and shown flashes of dominance at points during the season.
Landon Blythe leads the club in tackles with 58, with 44 from Jackson and 38 from Cavon Scott.

The low down
Avery has shown an astounding anemia in its offensive production the previous two weeks, scoring just one offensive touchdown since the second half of the loss to McDowell. The Vikings could not get untracked in its game last week against Thomas Jefferson and found itself unable to sustain drives and keep its defense off the field.
Hendersonville opened last week’s win against Madison with 34 first-half points while shutting out the Patriots until the third quarter.
The key for the Big Red this week will be how the Vikings contend with Hendersonville’s speed at the skill position and on the defensive front seven. Avery has had success in previous seasons with using its rushing game on the Bearcats to shorten the game, with last week’s rushing performance among the best for the Vikings this season.
The ability to control Rivers will be crucial to the Avery defense, which played well in last week’s loss in holding the Gryphons to just 13 points.
Avery must also limit its mistakes. Vikings sophomore quarterback Tre Jackson has thrown seven interceptions in the past two contests, an indication of the team’s struggles to move the football. Jackson has shown flashes of greatness at times this season, and will need to manage a near mistake-free game to give AHS its best shot at victory.

By the numbers
5 - interceptions by Avery's Ty Polsgrove in 2012
6 - turnovers forced by the Bearcats defense in last week’s win against Madison
10 - Vikings turnovers committed in its past two games
207 - average yards in total offense per game for AHS through six games this season
343 - yards in total offense averaged by Vikings opponents thus far this season
425 - season rushing yardage total of Avery's Luke Childress in 2012
Read next week’s edition of The AJT for a full recap of this week’s game against Hendersonville, as well as a preview of next week’s game at Polk County.