WEST JEFFERSON — The North Surry football team came all the way back from a big deficit in its season opener Friday night at Ashe County, but then couldn’t hold on to complete the comeback.
The Greyhounds spotted their hosts a 15-0 lead in the first quarter, surrendering two touchdowns and a safety, but then roared back with 19 unanswered points of their own, carrying a 19-15 lead into the fourth quarter of their game in West Jefferson before falling 22-19 on a fourth-quarter touchdown by the Huskies.
“We didn’t like the way we started the game, obviously, but I’m very proud of the way the kids responded on the road against a pretty good football team,” said North Surry head coach Danny Lyons. “We’re a young team; we only had nine kids starting tonight who had ever played in a varsity game. But they fought back and got us into the game.”
The Hounds started the game at a distinct disadvantage, and it helped Ashe to get off to a good start. What had been billed as a showdown between quarterbacks Avery Smith of North Surry and the Huskies’ Colin Ellis never materialized, because Smith won’t be available for the first two weeks of the season. Junior Brent Crouse started in Smith’s place and played well, throwing for 230 yards on the night, but it took him and the offense a while to settle in.
In the meantime, Ashe’s defense opened the game with a three-and-out, then marched 70 yards for a score behind Ellis, who ran 52 yards for a score and a 6-0 lead. An exchange of punts then left North trapped on its’ 1-yard line, and the Huskies picked up a safety to extend their advantage to 8-0.
Two possessions later, Ashe’s lead reached 15-0 when Ellis hit a couple of big third-down passes on another drive, the second of which led to a touchdown.
Late in the opening period, the Hounds’ offense finally found its feet. Crouse connected with Jordan Schelar on a long pass deep into Husky territory, and on third-and-goal from the Ashe 5-yard line, senior Andrew Smith bolted into the end zone to get North Surry on the board as the second quarter got under way. Izzy Garcia hit the extra point to make the score 15-7.
“Brent played very well for being thrust into this situation in his first game,” said Lyons. “He did a lot of good things and gave us a chance to win the game.”
The second quarter was all Greyhounds, as North Surry’s defense began picking off Ellis frequently — North ended the game with six interceptions of the Husky signal-caller — and the Hounds continued to put pressure on their hosts.
With about six minutes to go in the first half, the North defense forced another Ashe punt, which sailed over the punter’s head and gave the Hounds a first down on the Huskies’ 15. The Ashe defense was salty, and the series came down to a fourth-and-goal from the 4. Lyons inserted a special goal-line package with junior wideout Darius Duncan at quarterback, and he surprised the defenders with a touchdown strike to Casey Hull. However, the Huskies held on the ensuing two-point conversion try and carried a 15-13 lead into intermission.
Midway through the third quarter, North took the lead when Reid Stanley picked off an Ellis pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. Not long after, Nic Rodriguez did the same thing and appeared to have given the Hounds another pick-six and a 25-15 lead, but this one was called back for an illegal block.
With that, it came down to the fourth quarter, and a turnover with North seemingly on the march near midfield. Given the opportunity with decent field position, Ashe’s offense avoided making a mistake and went down for the go-ahead touchdown on a two-yard run by running back John Reavis.
The Hounds had two opportunities to respond. Following the score, Crouse marched North Surry down to the Ashe 25-yard line, but the Huskies held and forced a turnover on downs. From there, they were able to run the clock inside of two minutes and then leave the ball dead on North’s 2. Time ran out before the offense could get close enough for a field-goal try, and the game ended on a Hail Mary pass which was intercepted by Ashe.
“Our guys kept making plays tonight,” said Lyons. “We’re disappointed we didn’t win, but not with the effort. The effort was there all night.”
North Surry will make its 2016 home debut this coming Friday night against Elkin. The Elks, who are coming off a one-win season in 2015, opened the new year with a 27-6 loss at Forbush.