Last week was a smashing success for high school football teams in the News coverage area, as all four local schools won their games. Mount Airy and North Surry pulled away in their contests to win convincingly, while East Surry and Surry Central pulled off narrow victories decided in the fourth quarter.
There won’t be a repeat of that tonight, since North Surry and East Surry will be playing each other, and only one of the two can win. Both teams will be looking to improve to 2-1 on the season after earning their first victory last week. Surry Central proved its supremacy over Cardinal teams in the first two weeks of the season, downing East Surry and then East Wilkes. Now they will try to prove that Golden Eagles are superior to just plain Eagles, when they tackle fellow unbeaten Wilkes Central.
And last but certainly not least, Mount Airy will be honoring former Athletic Director and assistant football coach Donald Price during its home game with visiting Elkin, as the Granite Bears look to improve to 3-0 on the season.
NORTH SURRY AT EAST SURRY
For the second time this season, a young East Surry team will find itself in the crosshairs of a county rival looking for payback — the Greyhounds haven’t beaten the Cardinals since 2012, and they would very much like to rectify that.
However, North Surry (1-1) might find that their quarry is much tougher than it was when Surry Central handed East Surry a defeat two weeks ago in the season opener for both teams. The Cardinals evened their record at 1-1 last Friday night in a come-from-behind 28-27 road win at Starmount, a tough place to come into and walk out with a victory, and now the team will finally make its debut in front of the home folks.
East Surry showed maturity well beyond its years in pulling out a game where the lead changed hands six times, but the Cardinals still need work on their run defense. Starmount rushed for a whopping 427 yards, including 253 on 17 carries from Silas Holbrook. On the other hand, the East Surry defense stuffed him at the line of scrimmage on fourth down inside the red zone to secure the win.
The Cardinals will face another quality running back this week in North Surry’s Andrew Smith, but the Hounds aren’t the same type of smashmouth team that Starmount is. North’s “Air Raid” attack works out of a spread formation, and they are as likely to test the East Surry secondary as they are to run it with Smith. The only question will be who Coach Danny Lyons tabs to lead his offense. Brent Crouse led the Hounds to victory last week with an impressive second half against Elkin, but defending Western Piedmont 2A Player of the Year Avery Smith is once again available after missing the first two weeks of the season.
Last year, Smith threw for 237 yards and four touchdowns, but it wasn’t quite enough to lift North to victory. East led by 14 at halftime and by 10 in the fourth quarter, but Avery Smith kept gunning and forced East Surry coach David Diamont to go for a first down on 4th-and-2 down late in the game in order to keep the ball from with the Hounds’ offense. The Cardinals picked up the yardage and held on for a 35-32 win.
Nearly all of the key players for East in that game have graduated, while the Smiths, who combined to account for 408 all-purpose yards for North, are both back in uniform for their senior season. The Hounds will almost certainly be the favorites, and if the Cardinals want to extend their streak over North Surry, they will need a big game from junior running back Joey Ray, who ran for 117 yards and three scores against the Hounds last year, and whose 174 yards on 11 tries paced his team to victory last week over Starmount.
ELKIN AT MOUNT AIRY
The Granite Bears came into the season expecting to be good, and their impressive victories over Starmount and West Stokes have already propelled the team to a No. 6 ranking in the latest MaxPreps.com 1A ratings and No. 4 in the NCPreps.com 1A Bakers’ Dozen.
On the other hand, the Buckin’ Elks have been roughed up in their first two games, falling 27-6 at Forbush and 40-6 at North Surry last Friday night. Elkin’s three-game road trip to begin the season arrives in Wallace Shelton Stadium tonight, and the Elks will need to step up their game if they want to have a chance at a victory.
Although the players will want to keep their focus on the task at hand (beating Elkin), there are other events planned for the night that will be of strong interest to members of the MAHS athletic family. A half-hour before the game, at 7 p.m., the members of the Mount Airy boys’ golf and track teams that won 1A state championships last spring will be honored with the presentation of their championship rings.
At halftime, the school will have a special tribute for Coach Price, who passed away on June 17 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Because his passing occurred during the summer, the school has not yet had any formal tribute for him, but that will occur tonight. Everyone who knew Price since he first came to the school 23 years ago has been invited to take part in the ceremony.
According to Granite Bear football historian Doug McDaniel, this will be the 53rd meeting between the two schools, with Mount Airy holding a 37-13-2 lead in the series. The teams didn’t play between 2009 and 2014, but the series resumed last fall with a 63-7 Bear win. Mount Airy has won four in a row, but between 2001 and 2006, the Elks won five out of six meetings.
WILKES CENTRAL AT SURRY CENTRAL
When this game is over, the area will know who the best “Central Eagles” are. More importantly, one of the two teams will walk off the field 3-0 on the season.
The teams met in week three a year ago, and Wilkes continued what became a breakthrough season for its program by rolling to a 35-10 victory over their visitors. Wilkes Central went on to post a 10-3 record and reach the second round of the 2AA state playoffs, while Surry Central appeared to turn its own season around after that, only to be derailed by injuries.
So far, Wilkes Central doesn’t seem to have taken much of a step back, if any. The green and gold Eagles spent the first two weeks of the 2016 season conquering Iredell County, first downing North Iredell (20-18) and then West Iredell (36-20). However, they’re facing a much better opponent than they did at this time a season ago.
The Wilkes offense is led by senior running back Justin Parsons (5’7”, 170), whose 175 yards rushing last week included two long fourth-quarter touchdown runs that turned a 21-20 game into a blowout. But the two teams share a balanced offensive philosophy, and quarterback Camden Wyatt (5’11”, 150, soph.) threw for 153 yards in his team’s win.
“When you look at Wilkes Central, the first thing you notice is that (Parsons) is really good,” said Surry Central coach Monty Southern. “He carries the ball about 25 times a game, and he’s a deceptive back, gets lost in a crowd. Our defense has to focus on him.
“They have a really good receiver in (Terry Cowell) and they like to try to get their receivers in space and try to make something happen. We’re up for the challenge and want to see how we do against this type of offense.”
Wilkes Central also has a pair of formidable defensive linemen that Surry Central will have to be on the lookout for in seniors Dedric Smith (5’11”, 255) and Grant Cowles (6’2”, 265). Smith earned all-conference honors on both sides of the ball last season.
“Both of those defensive tackles come off the ball hard,” said Southern. “We’ve got to keep them in check.”
The team is relatively inexperienced at linebacker, but boasts a veteran secondary, making it more likely that Surry Central will focus its attack around running backs Eric Ramirez and Martin Palacios.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.