PILOT MOUNTAIN — Coach David Diamont of East Surry was concerned about how quickly the Cardinals’ new-look offensive line would come together this season.
He liked what he saw in the season opener Friday night.
East rushed 43 times for 218 yards and quarterback Tyler Smith threw for 117 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-3 victory against Surry Central.
“I feel good about our offensive line,” Diamont said. “We had two scrimmages, and our offensive line was very young as far as experience. They needed to have some success. They played together well and came off the ball better than they had in the past. We tried to be simple and feature two really good running backs in (Lucas) Koons and (J.T.) Lichtenberger. Of course Tyler Smith showed you he could chuck the cheese.”
Although East (1-0) has five senior offensive linemen listed on its roster (Austin Corns, Mason Bowman, Garrett Vass, Emilio Martinez, Travis Bohr), most didn’t play much as juniors last year. Diamont could also turn to Brandon McKinney, Preston Snow, Adam Coins or Tony Speaks up front.
The Cards suffered a major blow when junior lineman Corben Kiser went down with an injury in the second quarter. He reportedly broke two bones in his leg and was taken to Baptist Hospital Friday evening. Kiser suffered a knee injury in 2013 also.
“That’s a big loss for us on the defensive side, because he’s a very good person who has worked very hard to get ready to have a good year,” Diamont said. “He just kept apologizing to us on the field. Unfortunately that’s part of life. Corbin I’m sure will come back stronger than ever.”
Koons, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards in 2013, finished with 15 carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns. Lichtenberger, Eddie Scott, and Ty Brooks also got a handful of carries. The Cards didn’t attempt a pass on their first scoring drive.
Although the ground game has been the calling card for Diamont over the years, East was slinging the ball when it opened the game. Smith hooked up with junior tailback Gage Edwards for a 38-yard completion on the first play of the night. Edwards hauled in a 59-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Smith also threw a TD pass to senior tight end Jack Edwards.
The offensive line gave Smith plenty of time to throw.
“They looked really solid,” said Central coach Monty Southern. “Most of the time our first contact was two or three yards down the field. When you take Koons or the fullbacks, and they get past the line of scrimmage before you touch them, it’s tough to keep them in second- or third-and-long when they are doing that.”
Southern also noted that field position hurt the Eagles. East had three scoring drives that started at midfield or closer. With the Eagles trailing 7-0, Central’s punter mishandled a snap that the Cards recovered at the 19-yard line. Five plays later, Koons was in the end zone for his second touchdown of the night and Central was in a 13-0 hole.
“They were the more mature team,” Southern said. “They didn’t make many mistakes. When they did they weren’t big mistakes. When we did we made some big mistakes that made it tough to overcome. We are pretty young. We won’t have a hard time finding things to work on.”
Senior Alex Martin looked solid out of the backfield for the Eagles. He finished with 11 carries for 57 yards, and helped set up a Uriel Secundino field goal in the second quarter. Central had 26 rushes for 86 yards as a team. QB Kirk Needham faced heavy pressure from the Cards defense.
Central (0-1) got the football first in the second half, but the drive stalled after Needham was sacked by Austin Jessup.
“We’ve got to figure out a way offensively to get (Martin) in more space,” Southern said. “When he had creases he made some plays. Offensively, too many times he was having to change directions in the backfield. That’s tough. We didn’t do a very good job up front. That comes back on me. We’ve got to get better.”