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New-Look Blue Devils Host Cougars In Season Opener

 

Last updated 2/24/2021 at 4:17pm



After waiting six months to hit the field, a new era of Brevard Blue Devil football begins this Friday.

One year after earning a share of the Mountain Six Conference title and advancing to the third round of the 2A playoffs, a new crop of players will step up and try to maintain Brevard’s place as one of the power programs in the mountains.

The Blue Devils’ cupboard isn’t bare, but it certainly looks different.

Brevard graduated a slew of seniors from last year’s team, including nine all-conference selections.

However, there is still plenty of returning talent, as well as younger players ready to step up and make their mark on the program.

While the pandemic forced the prep season to the early spring, giving teams an extended preseason, teams have only been able to truly practice for two weeks. Brevard hosted Rosman last Friday in a scrimmage that was the first live action for either side.

Blue Devil head coach Craig Pritchett, entering his sixth season, said there was plenty to take away from last Friday.

“It was good to be back out and hit somebody else,” Pritchett said. “We saw some good things and some physicality from guys that hadn’t shown that in the past. We had some young guys step up and compete at certain positions.”

On the downside, Brevard turned the ball over several times.

Pritchett said while the turnovers stand out, he isn’t too concerned about those giveaways moving forward.

“We have to protect the football, but that’s an easy fix. The scrimmage was more of an evaluation tool for our guys and I think every kid in our program got in that game,” he said.

Leading the Blue Devil offense this year is junior quarterback Joe Powell.

Powell saw limited time under center last season in the backup QB role, but displayed a big arm capable of taking the top off opposing secondaries.

“We’re expecting Joe to step up and be a leader on offense,” Pritchett said. “He’s got some experience and he’s got great length. We’re looking for big things from him.”

Complementing Powell on the offense are Nathan Stockton and Garrett Swicegood.

Stockton is Brevard’s leading returning back, as he finished with 675 rushing yards and five touchdowns last year.

Swicegood is a dual threat that can come out of the backfield or slide out as a wide receiver.

There isn’t much experience on the receiving corps, but the group is athletic and features good size.

Pritchett said the most impressive piece of the offense so far has been the play in the trenches.

“One of the groups we were impressed most with in the scrimmage was the offensive line. We’ve got three, maybe four, senior offensive linemen and they showed how physically dominating they can be,” he said.

Defensively, Brevard will rely on Swicegood, as well as returning senior Bobby Brown.

Swicegood was second on the team last season in tackles (158). Brown had 49 tackles and seven tackles for loss, but will play a much bigger role for the Blue Devil defense as Brevard lost eight of its top 10 tacklers to graduation.

Other players Pritchett noted were defensive end Dylan Chrisman and returning safety Chris Conner.

Last year, Brevard held opposing teams to just over 11 points per game and Pritchett believes he has the talent on defense to clamp down once again.

“We’ve got good speed and good size on defense. We’ve been fortunate to have some defenses over the past couple of years that have been able to keep us in games, force turnovers and get the offense the ball. So, we’re looking forward to continuing that,” he said.

With all the restrictions, this season won’t look like any other, but it will begin against a familiar foe.

For the fourth straight year, Brevard opens up against Mountain Heritage.

The Cougars went 11-2 last year, falling in the third round of the playoffs.

Mountain Heritage has yet to lose to Brevard in this recent series. It looked like the Blue Devils were going to reverse that trend last season, but the Cougars outscored Brevard 10-0 in the fourth quarter on their way to a 22-13 victory.

Facing a team like Mountain Heritage in week one is a tough task for any squad, but Pritchett said he enjoys the early-season challenge and feels it has benefitted his players in the past seasons.

“Mountain Heritage is one of those top tier programs in Western North Carolina and it’s a great test for us right out of the gate,” he said. “It’s been instrumental to our success the past few years. We had the lead late last year and kind of fizzled out in the fourth quarter. But I think we’re one step closer and I think our kids are getting used to playing in those type of games against those powerful programs and I hope they come to play.”

 
 

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