There won’t be any conference titles on the line Friday night, and the game is unlikely to have any playoff implications.
However, the eyes of all Surry County football fans will be trained on Wallace Shelton Stadium, as Mount Airy hosts Surry Central in this season’s version of the county’s Super Bowl.
Perhaps appropriately, the game is coming during the week of the county fair, and it’s also the only home game being contested in this newspaper’s coverage area this week. North Surry is a heavy favorite over winless Atkins, but that game is being played in Winston-Salem, while East Surry is taking the week off before entering Northwest 1A Conference action.
“Tell the scheduling folks that we appreciate this,” said Mount Airy coach Kelly Holder. “We’ll take all of the people we can get at this game.”
SURRY CENTRAL AT MOUNT AIRY
Everyone expected the Granite Bears to field a strong team in 2016, and they have not disappointed. Despite the loss of starting quarterback Jackson Smith for two of the team’s first four games, Mount Airy has systematically dismantled Starmount, West Stokes, Elkin and North Surry to start the season at 4-0. The Bears have claimed a No. 5 statewide ranking in the 1A ranks according to MaxPreps, and have climbed all the way to No. 3 in the NCPreps.com Baker’s Dozen, trailing only defending state champion Wallace-Rose Hill and West Montgomery. Last Friday night, North Surry coach Danny Lyons, himself well-versed on all things Bear, declared that this was the best team Mount Airy had fielded in six years.
This lever of performance wasn’t expected out of Surry Central, at least by no one outside of the Golden Eagles’ program. Central believed that its stunning 20-0 upset of the Bears last year hadn’t been a fluke, and they simply were unable to follow up on it because key players started getting knocked out of action in the weeks that followed. Coach Monty Southern said in the preseason that teams had better not sleep on Central.
His team started the season off with a 31-14 win over East Surry, and has since checked off East Wilkes, Wilkes Central and Elkin to also stand 4-0. The beginning has been so impressive — Central’s first 4-0 start since 2003 — that the Golden Eagles claimed the final spot in the NCPreps 2A Baker’s Dozen this week.
“They’re a very solid team across the board, good skill people, good people up front, strong on defense and they have good coaching,” said Holder. “A lot of teams come into here thinking they can beat us, but they know they can beat us because they did it last year, and that’s huge.”
Central also knows that Mount Airy doesn’t plan on losing to them again.
“They’re going to be jacked up to play us,” said Southern. “Last year had to leave a bad taste in their mouths. We go into every game with the goal of being the most physical team, and we’re going to have to be very physical to beat them.
“Mount Airy is very similar to us in that both teams have pretty much all of the key players as last year, but we’re better and so are they.”
The MaxPreps system accords the two teams with a virtually identical power rating number. Mount Airy has won its games by larger margins, but the system believes that Central has defeated better opponents to date. Neither team, however, will have faced a better opponent than the one they’ll line up against Friday.
According to historical records from both schools, there has never been a meeting of this nature between the Bears and Eagles. They were both unbeaten when they met in 2006 (a 38-34 home win for Mount Airy), but that was in week two, not week five with both teams ranked in statewide polls.
“This is uncharted waters,” said Southern. “I don’t think it’s ever happened before that we were both undefeated when we played deep into the season. “We’re expecting this to be the biggest crowd we’ve ever played in front of, although hopefully we’ll get a few home playoff games and play to a big home crowd.
“We’re excited about this. We’d be excited to play Mount Airy even if we weren’t 4-0. But it’s always fun to play in front of a full set of fans.”
NORTH SURRY AT ATKINS
Although you never want to look past any opponent, the Greyhounds will be massive favorites to get back in the win column this week against the hapless Camels.
Atkins has never had a winning season in its 12 years of fielding a varsity football team, and of late, the team’s record has gotten worse. The Camels haven’t so much as won a game since October 10, 2014, when they beat North Stokes 22-20. Their best record in a single season came in 2007, when they went 6-7.
When the two teams met last fall, North Surry led 49-8 at halftime and the second half was played with a continuous clock, the Hounds eventually winning 56-16.
For North, the game should be a welcome opportunity to get everything in sync before the team enters Western Piedmont Athletic Conference play, where the Hounds won’t have any easy games. Every other team in the league is off to a solid start. South Stokes is 1-3, but is highly competitive and not the sad sack it was in 2015, and longtime conference power Carver is 0-4, but the Yellowjackets have been playing nothing but 3A and 4A teams.
North Surry has been missing key performers in every game it has played to date, starting with not having defending WPAC Co-Player of the Year Avery Smith for the first two games.
The Camels opened this season with three straight shutout losses, against Christ School (42-0), North Forsyth (67-0) and Glenn (47-0) before finally getting their first points of the season last week in a 55-6 loss at West Wilkes. All of those games were on the road, and Atkins will playing at home for the first time on Friday.