By Jeremiah Reed
Sports Editor 

Blue Devil Defense Puts On Clinic, Shuts Out West 42-0


October 17, 2016

Jeremiah Reed

Brevard quarterback Tanner Ellenberger's 55-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was part of a 21-point explosion that took less than six minutes and helped propel the Blue Devils to a 42-0 victory over West Henderson Friday night.

The Brevard Blue Devils used five turnovers, a blocked punt and a four-touchdown effort from Tanner Ellenberger to storm past the West Henderson Falcons, 42-0, Friday night.

The win was significant in several ways. It secured Brevard their first winning season since 2007, gave them their first shutout victory since 2010 and inched them closer to a birth in the 2A playoffs.

"We showed what we're capable of tonight," said head coach Craig Pritchett after the victory. "All three phases of the game were really clicking. We scored points on special teams and offense, the defense got the goose egg. That's about as good as you can draw it up."

It was the special teams that got the scoring started. Brevard received the opening kickoff, but neither team could piece together long drives, leading to a West Henderson fourth down at their own 44.

On the punt attempt, Tanner Pettit came around the edge untouched and blocked the kick. A scrum for the ball ensued and somehow Jesse Lowery emerged with the football before taking it back to the house. Samuel Kicklighter's extra point gave Brevard a 7-0 lead with 5:27 left in the first.

After the Falcons started from their 20, an attempted pitch on the option play was poorly executed and Brevard recovered at the 18-yard line.

Moments later, Ellenberger found Ari Williams in the corner of the end zone and he hauled in the catch. Kicklighter's PAT made it 14-0.

The Falcons offense finally got things going on their third drive, piecing together two first downs before a long rush by quarterback Brandon Whitaker moved the ball to the Blue Devils' 37-yard line.

However, on the next play, Brevard stripped away the ball before a recovery set the offense up at their own 44. After a short pickup, an illegal procedure and facemask penalty moved the Blue Devils back to their 34-yard line.

A quick pass to Lowery moved the ball to the Blue Devil 45. On the next play, Ellenberger kept it himself bursting through the middle and down the sideline before stiff-arming the last Falcon defender to the ground and scoring a spectacular 55-yard touchdown.

Kicklighter added the PAT and just like that Brevard scored 21 points in less than 5:30 minutes and the rout was on.

West's first possession of the second quarter went nowhere and after the punt, Brevard started at their own 31.

The Blue Devils moved the ball to midfield before an intentional grounding penalty stalled the drive.

However, West only managed seven yards on three plays and Brevard got the ball back at their 31-yard line.

As if shutting down Brevard wasn't hard enough, Lady Luck didn't do the Falcons any favors.

On a quarterback keeper, Ellenberger was stripped of the ball just inside Blue Devil territory and West was in prime position to recover. But somehow the ball eluded the Falcons and Pettit was Johnny-on-the-spot, scooping it up and getting inside West territory.

Ellenberger took advantage of the good fortune, driving Brevard to the 17-yard line before connecting with Nick Cabe in the end zone to give the Blue Devils a 28-0 halftime lead.

After receiving the second half kickoff, the Falcons committed their third turnover of the game, losing a fumble near midfield and setting Brevard up at the West 43-yard line.

Less than two minutes later, Ellenberger hit Pressley across the middle for a touchdown. Kicklighter's PAT made it 35-0.

It quickly got embarrassing for West, as they turned the ball over once again on the very next play of their ensuing drive. The Falcon's defense held, forcing a Brevard punt, but West just couldn't get out of their own way.

On the punt, a flag came in after Kicklighter was hit late. However, as the ball rolled toward the West goal line, a Falcons' player inexplicably tried to scoop the ball up, lost it, and Brevard's Stevi Williams pounced on it in the end zone for a touchdown. The PAT made it 42-0, which initiated a running clock that lasted the rest of the game.

There weren't any fireworks in the fourth quarter and with the clock running in real time, the game breezed to a finish.

For a team that was supposed to be proficient in the option game, the Blue Devil defense totally dominated West's offense. Brevard forced four offensive turnovers and the Falcons didn't get inside the Blue Devil red zone all night.

Pritchett ascribes himself as a defensive coach and while Brevard had been close to a shutout on several occasions, it all came together Friday night.

"It feels great to get the shutout, especially for our defensive players and defensive coaches. We've been close, but had a mistake here and there that cost us. But tonight we capitalized on their mistakes, the ball bounced our way and it was a good night for us," he said.

Ellenberger finished the night 10-13 passing, for 110 yards and three touchdowns. He also led Brevard with 70 yards on nine carries and one rushing touchdown. Last season the Blue Devils were a run-first team, but this year, Brevard has proven its quick-strike potential through the air.

Pritchett praised Ellenberger's development as a passer and said Kyle Dickey, the new playcaller, has done a great job of putting players in a position to come up big.

"Tanner has come a long way. He's been a three-year starter on varsity and had some success. Last year, with me calling the plays, we were run-heavy and this year we handed the reigns over to coach Dickey, who does a tremendous job. West was going to load up the box and try to cover us man-to-man. And we knew we had some special players on the outside and a special guy to get the ball to them" he said.

Brevard improves to 6-2 with the win and sets up a huge game on the road at Smoky Mountain (6-2) next Friday. Along with Franklin, Brevard and Smoky are the only 2A teams in the WNC Athletic Conference.

The Blue Devils have a win in-hand against Franklin. So a win over Smoky would guarantee Brevard their first playoff birth in three years.

"Our focus now turns to Smoky Mountain," Pritchett said. "They've been doing good things over there. It will be a tough game and we'll have to play well to win."


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