Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Backs against the wall: Titans must beat Rockets to have a shot at the postseason

Backs against the wall: Titans must beat Rockets to have a shot at the postseason

  • Updated
  • 0
{{featured_button_text}}

Note: "Tonight" in the story refers to Friday.

For the second week in a row, the McDowell Titans are approaching Friday night as a do-or-die playoff game.

The Titans are hoping for a better result, however.

McDowell (5-3 overall, 3-2 The Mountain Athletic 3A/4A Conference) is on the road at A.C. Reynolds tonight (7 p.m. kickoff) in a regular-season finale that could make or break McDowell’s postseason chances.

The Titans suffered a monumentally disappointing 25-14 loss to the Erwin Warriors in the home finale last week, and they fell from a tie for 32nd in RPI to 36th among western 4A schools. Only 32 clubs make the playoffs. Reynolds is currently 26th. That leaves tonight’s game against the Rockets (6-3, 4-1), as an absolute must-win if the Titans are to keep playing.

“I think if we were to win, we’ve got a pretty good shot at getting in,” said McDowell head coach Darrell Brewer. “With a loss, there’s no possible way. So this is pretty much a playoff game.”

In order to win it, the Titans will have to avoid letting Erwin beat them twice. Fortunately, Brewer doesn’t think that will be a problem.

“It’s one of those things you have to turn loose of pretty quick,” said the third-year head coach about last week’s loss. “You have to have a short memory in this business. But we’ve had a good week of practice. These kids are so resilient. That’s one thing I’ve been impressed with ever since I’ve been here. They come in on Monday and go right back to work.”

That’s just what the Titans have done this week, with a couple of notable exceptions. Senior linebacker Grayson Blackwelder, the team’s leading tackler and emotional leader, suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter of last week’s game and has not practiced this week. As of press time Thursday, the coaches were awaiting news from doctors on Blackwelder’s status. Brewer said Blackwelder has a separated shoulder and has been undergoing treatment and rehab.

“I’m worried about him,” said Brewer. “Even if he is able to play, it’s tough to play linebacker with a bum shoulder.”

Senior defensive lineman Jake Marsh was also banged-up against Erwin, suffering a back injury that, while painful, involved only muscle tissue and no bones. Marsh has not practiced this week but may play tonight.

Junior running back Blake Boswell, who leads the team in rushing, is still nursing a sprained ankle. The injury occurred three weeks ago, but Boswell has tweaked the ankle several times since then, and that has delayed the healing process greatly. Brewer said Boswell would likely be limited tonight.

Sophomore middle linebacker Colby Carr is still hampered by a recurring knee problem. Brewer said doctors don’t think there is any structural damage, but the knee continues to swell at times. Brewer listed Carr as a game-time decision, but added it’s doubtful he’ll play.

The Titans will need all available hands on deck for the Rockets. Reynolds has found its stride after a difficult start against a tough schedule, and has bounced back from its own disappointing defeat -- a 6-5 loss at Asheville on Oct. 1 -- that essentially decided the conference championship. Reynolds is coming off a dominating 52-21 win against non-conference foe R-S Central, who the Titans beat 20-14 in the season opener.

While the Rockets have struggled at times offensively, there has been no such problem on the other side of the ball. Reynolds has only allowed 100 points all season, and Brewer said the Rockets are built around their dominant defense.

“They’re a very good defensive team,” said Brewer. “Their offense is good enough to beat you, but the defense is as solid as they’ve had in a long time.”

Junior outside linebacker Asher Cunningham is the Rockets’ leading tackler, with 71 stops, three for losses, and an interception. Senior edge player Micah Hembree (6-3, 195) has been a force, with 62 tackles, five for losses, two sacks and an interception. Sophomore linebacker Brandon Guest (6-1, 220) has 61 stops, four for losses, and a sack.

Brewer said the Rockets come off the ball with a vengeance.

“We’ve got to go into the game hoping we can get 3 yards,” said Brewer. “We’ve got to play old-school football, and realize 3 yards is a good play. If we don’t do a good job up front, they’ll be in the backfield with us; they’ll be sitting in our laps.”

Offensively, Reynolds relies on sophomore quarterback Ricky Tolbert (6-2, 195). Tolbert is 51-of-75 passing for 592 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions.

Freshman running back Max Guest is the leading ground-gainer with 618 yards and nine scores on 121 carries. Senior receiver Machi Ikeme (5-9, 150) is tops on the team in receiving with 316 yards and a score on 29 catches.

McDowell counters with senior quarterback Gabe Marsh, who is 71-of-122 for 914 yards and five scores with seven picks. Marsh is trying to become the 14th 1,000-yard passer in school history.

Boswell is the leading rusher with 663 yards and six TDs on 122 carries. But McDowell has gotten solid contributions from freshman running back Josh Ellis (46-322-3TDs) and senior running back Kiyaun Selby (46-320-2TDs), who were both factors even before Boswell was injured.

Tight end Jeremiah Ellis (18 receptions, 255 yards, 2TDs) and wide-out Matthew Spivey (13-219-2TDs) lead the receiving corps for the Titans.

Blackwelder’s 65 tackles and 11 tackles for losses lead the team. Junior linebacker Dawson Bartlett (43 tackles) is coming off a monster game against Erwin, where he had 13 tackles, 10 of them solo, and a fumble recovery.

Over the years, few teams have had the Titans’ number the way the Rockets have. McDowell is 3-19 against Reynolds all-time and has lost 17 in a row to the Rockets. It’s far and away the Titans’ longest losing streak to a single opponent. Reynolds is responsible for the four highest-scoring games by an opponent in McDowell history, including an all-time high of 72. During a three-game span from 2013-15, the Rockets put up 201 points against the Titans, an average of 67 per game.

The Mountain 3A/4A Conference standings 2021

Conf. Overall

Asheville (4A) 5-0 7-2

A.C. Reynolds (4A) 4-1 6-3

McDowell (4A) 3-2 5-3

Erwin (3A) 3-2 5-4

Enka (3A) 2-3 4-5

T.C. Roberson (4A) 1-5 2-7

N. Buncombe (3A) 0-5 0-7

Friday, Oct. 22

Erwin 25, McDowell 14

Asheville 48, N. Buncombe 6

A.C. Reynolds 56, T.C. Roberson 0

Enka 22, N. Henderson 19

Friday, Oct. 29

McDowell at A.C. Reynolds

N. Buncombe at Erwin

Enka at Asheville

Franklin at T.C. Roberson

Friday, Aug. 20

McDowell 20, R-S Central 14

Robbinsville 45, Asheville 23

Mitchell 47, Erwin 7

West Forsyth 37, A.C. Reynolds 7

Watauga 33, T.C. Roberson 0

Enka 34, Hayesville 21

Friday, Aug. 27

McDowell at Mitchell (canceled)

Madison 47, N. Buncombe 24

Shelby 15, A.C. Reynolds 12

Kings Mtn. 14, Asheville 0

Mtn. Heritage 28, Erwin 21

T.C. Roberson 42, Tuscola 36

Pisgah at Enka (ppd.)

Monday, Aug. 30

Pisgah 28, Enka 0

Friday, Sept. 3

Andrews 44, N. Buncombe 20

A.C. Reynolds 24, Alexander Central 7

Asheville 16, Brevard 14

Erwin 34, Tuscola 20

Smoky Mtn. 34, T.C. Roberson 12

Enka at Rosman (canceled)

Friday, Sept. 10

McDowell 36, Avery 33

Madison 26, Enka 21

East Henderson at N. Buncombe (canceled)

A.C. Reynolds at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee (canceled)

Erwin 28, Brevard 21

Friday, Sept. 17

McDowell 16, T.C. Roberson 6

A.C. Reynolds at N. Buncombe (ppd.)

Asheville 54, N. Davidson 0

Erwin 27, Enka 0

Monday, Sept. 20

A.C. Reynolds 48, North Buncombe 0

Friday, Sept. 24

Chase 47, McDowell 14

T.C. Roberson 34, N. Buncombe 0

A.C. Reynolds 61, Enka 0

Asheville 49, Erwin 14

Friday, Oct. 1

McDowell 53, N. Buncombe 13

Asheville 6, A.C. Reynolds 5

T.C. Roberson at Enka (ppd. Oct. 19)

Friday, Oct. 8

McDowell 36, Enka 7

A.C. Reynolds 35, Erwin 14

Asheville 42, T.C. Roberson 7

Tuesday, Oct. 12

Enka 25, T.C. Roberson 14

Friday, Oct. 15

Asheville 31, McDowell 0

Enka 28, N. Buncombe 14

Erwin 24, T.C. Roberson 20

A.C. Reynolds 52, R-S Central 21

McDowell Titan football stats 2021 (fall)

McDowell Opponents

First downs 145 128

Rushes-yds. 303-1635 272-1549

Passing 71-122-7-5 51-102-6-5

Passing yds. 914 701

Total yds. 2549 2250

Fumbles/lost 14/5 11/6

Penalties-yds. 45-399 37-297

McDowell 61 83 13 32 – 189

Opponents 51 27 37 61 – 176

Individual stats – Offense

Rushing

Player Att. Yards Avg. TD

Blake Boswell 122 663 5.4 6

Josh Ellis 46 322 7.0 3

Kiyaun Selby 46 320 7.0 2

Gabe Marsh 48 127 2.6 6

Grayson Blackwelder 18 119 6.6 0

Hunter Kirby 04 66 16.5 2

Helon Alvarado ` 07 22 3.1 1

Rickey Carr 09 10 1.1 0

Totals 303 1635 5.4 20

Passing

Player Comp. Att. Yds. TD INT

G. Marsh 71 122 914 5 7

Receiving

Player Rec. Yds. TD

Jeremiah Ellis 18 255 2

Matthew Spivey 13 219 2

Jackson Marsh 18 138 0

Josh Ellis 6 107 1

Jeryah Cash 8 87 0

Majesty Summey 2 34 0

Blackwelder 3 33 0

Marshall Lamb 1 14 0

Dawson Bartlett 1 12 0

Carr 1 04 0

Totals 71 914 5

Kickoff/punt returns

Player Ret. Yds. Avg. TD

Hunter Kirby 08 221 27.6 0

Jo. Ellis 04 119 29.8 0

Boswell 07 102 14.6 0

Selby 02 28 14.0 0

Je. Ellis 02 28 14.0 0

Spivey 01 15 15.0 0

Ethan Hensley 02 15 7.5 0

Summey 01 06 6.0 0

Kicking

Player XPA XPM FGM FGA Blk. Long

Hunter Kirby 06 03 00 00 0 00

Punting Punts Avg.

Kirby 15 36.2

Andres Guerrero 1 44

Scoring

Player TD Rush Rec. Ret. FG XP Pts.

G. Marsh 6 6 0 0 0 10 46

Boswell 6 6 0 0 0 6 42

Jo. Ellis 4 3 1 0 0 4 28

Selby 2 2 0 0 0 4 16

Kirby 2 2 0 0 0 3 15

Je. Ellis 2 0 2 0 0 2 14

Spivey 2 0 2 0 0 0 12

Summey 1 0 0 1 0 0 06

Alvarado 1 1 0 0 0 0 06

Bartlett 0 0 0 0 0 2 02

Totals 26 20 5 1 0 31 189*

*-total includes a team safety

Defense

Tackles

Player Solo Asst. Total

Blackwelder 39 26 65

Dawson Bartlett 26 17 43

Jake Marsh 31 10 41

Colby Carr 24 14 38

Kobe Nolan 21 16 37

Summey 16 13 29

Devyn Cash 18 6 24

J. Cash 17 6 23

Rickey Carr 16 6 22

Selby 15 4 19

Collin Campbell 7 10 17

Luke Roberts 11 4 15

Ethan Hensley 5 7 12

Alvarado 7 4 11

Matthew Spivey 8 3 11

Kirby 7 4 11

James Day 5 6 11

Joseph Gowan 6 4 10

Tackles for loss

Player TFL

Blackwelder 11

Jak. Marsh 5

Summey 5

Co. Carr 3

Jesse Barrier 2

Bartlett 2

Nolan 2

D. Cash 1

Luke Roberts 1

Alvarado 1

Selby 1

Sacks: Jak. Marsh 2, Summey, Bartlett, Day, Gowan, Barrier 1

Interceptions: Summey 3, D. Cash, Selby, Hensley 1

Fumble recoveries: J. Cash 2, Bartlett, Alvarado, Co. Carr 1

Caused fumbles: Summey, J. Cash, C. Carr, Day, Bartlett 1

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Recommended for you

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics