NEWLAND — The first four weeks of the 2022 high school football season has been a crucible for Avery Vikings head coach Ethan Farmer and his team, as the Vikings (0-4) have faced a quartet of talented opponents in preparation for the Western Highlands Conference portion of its schedule.
This week, the Vikings return to MacDonald Stadium as it will welcome the Rosman Tigers (0-4) for Homecoming and its conference opener. Avery made its first conference foray to Transylvania County last season, dominating a shorthanded Tigers team 58-12 for the Vikings’ only victory of the 2021 campaign. Rosman enters this week without a win in its past 27 games, as its last victory was a 40-12 non-conference win over Madison on Sept. 6, 2019, when the Tigers were members of the Smoky Mountain Conference. Rosman fell 34-8 to Cherokee in its matchup at home last week.
Scouting the Tigers
Rosman is coached by Dusty Robinson and relies heavily on its running attack, utilizing a wing formation and misdirection to keep defensive fronts off guard to gain yards. Rosman has greater depth this season than in previous campaigns, including the 2021 season that saw only 12 Tigers who were dressed and available to play against the Vikings.
Rosman is led offensively by senior starting quarterback Carson Lyday, who has ran for more than 600 yards in his varsity career. Lyday was named All-Western Highlands Conference for the Tigers last season. The leading rusher for the Tigers in 2022 is junior Corey Rackley, who has amassed 355 yards on 88 carries in the 2022 season, including a season-high 124 yards in the team’s season opener on August 19 against East Henderson. Rackley has also scored a pair of rushing touchdowns, and also registered nine tackles on defense in last week’s loss to Cherokee.
When Rosman opts to throw the football, sophomore Kreed Smith will likely be serving as quarterback, as he has attempted 12 passes, completing only two. Sophomore teammate Colton Dodson has also been utilized in the Tigers offense, gaining 63 yards on 11 carries and scoring a touchdown this season.
Defensively, Rackley and teammate Mason Mezger lead the club with 19 tackles each, with 12 tackles from Dodson, 11 tackles by Alex Jenkins and 10 tackles by Lyday.
The low down
Considering how little success Rosman has experienced in the past three seasons, it would be easy for Avery to overlook or take lightly the Tigers entering this week’s matchup. With the added distractions that come along with a Homecoming Week, the Vikings will have plenty of opportunities to give Rosman less respect than their opponent is due.
For Avery to put a victory in its ledger this week, however, the team will need to take care of business and execute well in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. Against McDowell last week, the Vikings played a strong quarter and a half against a Titans club that boasted twice as many players on its roster. A bright spot for the Vikings last week was the emergence in the backfield of senior Logan Gilliam. Primarily utilized as a wide receiver through the first three contests, Gilliam was moved into the backfield last week and responded with a more than 50 rushing yards, including a long touchdown run.
McDowell’s offense was able to take control and impose its will on Avery in the second half of the Vikings’ loss last week, but Avery should have a decisive advantage both in numbers and talent this week. This week may very well be the breakout week offensively that the Vikings desperately need as it enters into the meat of its Western Highlands Conference schedule, as the competition stiffness after this week and throughout the remainder of the regular season. If the Big Red plays to its potential Friday night, the faithful at MacDonald Stadium should be entertained with the first win of the Ethan Farmer coaching era.
By the numbers
2 — Cherokee players who rushed for more than 100 yards against Rosman in last week’s 34-8 victory
13 — receptions by Avery WR Elijah Holtsclaw in the 2022 season, second only to teammate Latrell Baker’s 15 catches
15 — yardage of a fumble return touchdown by Rosman’s Blake Holden to account for the only touchdown by the Tigers in last week’s loss to the Braves
18 — number of players listed on Rosman’s team roster in 2022
95 — rushing yards by Avery QB Will Stanford to lead the Vikings in last week’s game at McDowell
144 — total yards gained by Rosman in its loss last week to Cherokee
343 — rushing yards surrendered by the Tigers defense in last week’s loss
359 — rushing yards given up by the Avery defense last week in its loss at McDowell
905 — all-purpose yards (rushing and passing combined) this season by Avery’s Stanford
Read next week’s edition of The AJT for a recap of this week’s Homecoming contest with Rosman, as well as a preview of next week’s road test at Draughn.