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We're young, coaches say, but ready to fight

Head football coaches Paul Whitaker of West, Justin Heatherly of East, Jim Beatty of North and Jim Sosebee of Hendersonville previewed their 2019 squads. Head football coaches Paul Whitaker of West, Justin Heatherly of East, Jim Beatty of North and Jim Sosebee of Hendersonville previewed their 2019 squads.

All four head football coaches of Henderson County schools say they have young rosters and will need new starters to develop quickly if their squads are going to excel this season.

The coaches get their first look at their teams in a game situation tonight. East Henderson, North Henderson and Hendersonville all play out-of-county schools the Battle of the Borders starting at 5 o’clock this evening at East while West Henderson hosts Brevard in a scrimmage. The coaches gave a preview of their teams at a Kiwanis Club meeting on Thursday.

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East Henderson

The host school is hoping to build on last year’s 5-7 record under second-year coach Justin Heatherly.
“We’re just trying to build a culture,” Heatherly said. “This year we have about 74 out, between jayvee and varsity. We’re young. We lost 19 seniors last year and lot of them were big play athletes. It’s hard to fill those spots. We’ve got a great group of sophomores … that are developing really fast.
“This the best team that we’ve had” in terms of buying into team over individual. “I don’t feel like we’ve got a lot of trouble. I don’t feel like we’ve got a lot kids that are more about themselves, they’re more about the team. That’s what I’m most excited about. Practice has been fun, workouts have been fun.”
A challenging outing helped the team bond.
“We actually took ‘em to a ropes course,” Heatherly said. “You put some of those kids 45 feet in the air, they start to get real humble. I had a big sophomore lineman, he’s about 300 pounds, and he just couldn’t trust the rope. He got up there, he tried about five times. He’d put one foot out there and sit down. ‘I don’t trust that thing.” Some of the cockier kids — they were very humbled. … It was a good thing.”
He hopes the team spirit will help the Eagles succeed.
“We’re looking forward to it,” he said. “I know that we’ll be competitive and we’ll fight.”

East hosts Owen next week.


Jim Sosebee, in his fourth season as coach of the HHS Bearcats, finished 7-6 last year after going 10-4 in his first two seasons.
“We had a good summer,” he said. Graduation created holes. “Hopefully our young guys will step up. We’ve got some athletes there. … Our strength right now is going to be our running backs. Our receivers are so young but they’ll be fine by the time we get to the games. We’ve got some big guys up front. It’s been a good group. … We only won seven games last year. It was kind of a disappointment. These guys have bought in, worked extra hard, hold each accountable.”

Hendersonville hosts North next week.


North Henderson

Jim Beatty, who spent eight years at T.C. Roberson, was brought on board in January to revive the football program at North, which had a winless season in 2018.
“We lost a lot last year off the team — 12 seniors, lost four offensive linemen of the starting five, which is what I coach, so it hurt my heart. … We’re going to be young — three returning starters on defense, four returning starters on defense.
“Overall, I like our team. We’re not very big up front, we’re not very experienced up front but I know how hard they’ve worked ever since I was named head coach. They’ve bought in to the weight room, they’ve bought in to being there in the summer. We’ve had for the most part good practices.”
Coming off a winless season makes for a challenge.

“I think if we get some confidence early we’ll see what can happen,” he said.

North visits Hendersonville next week.

West Henderson

West coach Paul Whitaker said he was encouraged to see an uptick in interest in football.
“We have 43 members on varsity team, 44 on jayvee. Last year we were down in the 30s with both," he said.
The Falcons return five starters each on offense and defense “so were going to be very young,” he said. “What we need to do is develop some second-teamers who are going to have to come in and get some quality snaps for us to give those starters a break.”
Unlike a pass-happy team that throws all night long, stopping the clock frequently in games that last forever, West will play fast games.
“I can tell you, we’re going to run it and I can have you home by 9 o’clock,” he joked. In its 4-7 season, West suffered 1-point losses to Roberson and Tuscola and a 7-point loss to Reynolds. “That’s three games we feel like we could have won,” he said. This season, the Falcons will have to win the close ones to “step up and compete for the conference title,” he said.

West hosts East Rutherford next week.

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