North Surry kicked off conference play with a 20-17 upset over West Stokes on Thursday.
Playing a day early because of the threat of rain, the Greyhounds trailed 3-0 early, but then took the lead for good with two touchdowns in half a minute.
A Hail Mary toss at the end of the game cut the lead from 10 points to three, but North was able to kneel twice to run out the clock.
The Hounds entered the game 2-4 with a three-point loss to Ashe County and a 10-point loss to rival East Surry.
On the opening drive, it looked like North might be on its way to a fifth loss, as West Stokes (4-2 coming in) took the ball and marched right down the field.
Devan Hairston picked up four first downs on the ground, eventually getting to the 3-yard line before the Greyhounds stiffened. The Wildcats settled for a 25-yard field goal by Patrick Ellis with 5:47 left in the first quarter.
This was Casey Hull’s first game back after missing two games with a shoulder injury, said North coach Danny Lyons. He didn’t make a couple of plays when he could have on that opening drive, Lyons said, but when his team held the Wildcats to just three points, he had a feeling this could be his team’s night.
Quarterback Avery Smith broke free for 31 yards on the first play for North Surry, but a 15-yard penalty put the team in the hole at first-and-25 and led to a punt.
The defense forced West Stokes into a three-and-out, and North took over again at its 20-yard line.
On third-and-1, Smith faked a quarterback sneak up the middle, bounced it to the left and streaked up the field for a 61-yard touchdown to make it 7-3 on the first play of the second quarter.
West Stokes took over at the 30 with Reid Fulk rolling out to look for a receiver on the right side.
Cornerback Darius Duncan broke on the ball, jumped up for the interception and raced up the far sideline right in front of the West Stokes faithful for a 39-yard touchdown. Just 26 seconds after the first TD, North Surry led 13-3 with 11:22 remaining in the quarter. The point-after was no good.
West Stokes looked to answer right back and moved the ball to the North 35-yard line. On a big third-and-4 play, Duncan made a quick tackle on a short pass to make it fourth-and-2. The Cats went for it on fourth down, and the defense stopped Hairston for a one-yard loss and a turnover on downs.
Smith tried to go deep down the left sideline into double coverage, but the ball was intercepted.
West crossed midfield, but on three straight plays, the linebacker Hull made the stop. One tackle came as he sniffed out a middle screen and made the tackle, forcing the Wildcats to punt.
North might have scored one more touchdown before the half, but on a deep ball up the right sideline, the receiver dropped a pass when he was behind the defense.
At the start of the second half, the Hounds suffered a blow as lineman Hunter Crouse went down with an apparent knee injury.
After the game, Lyons said he was headed to the hospital to see what damage might have been done to Crouse’s knee.
On West Stokes’ first possession of the half, Duncan almost had his second pick-six, as he jumped a sideline route and just missed coming up with another interception.
On North’s ensuing possession, Smith tossed a short pass over the middle, but it was deflected into the air. Hairston made the interception at the Hounds’ 25.
A North Surry player was in position to try to make a tackle at the 20, but a block in the back knocked him to the turf. No flag was thrown, and Hairston went 25 yards for a touchdown to make it 13-10 with 6:48 left in the third.
Smith got those points back in less than five minutes. He made a 52-yard kickoff return and a 12-yard run for a first down.
After a holding penalty made it second-and-29, Smith used two runs to reach the 11-yard line for a first down, getting help when Hull blasted Hairston on the perimeter.
Then from the right hashmark, Smith went diagonal to the left corner for an 11-yard touchdown to make it 20-10 with an Izzy Garcia extra point.
After a swap of punts, West was on the move until Hull picked off a short pass at North’s 37-yard line.
Smith had a run up the middle and was tripped. After he had already hit the ground, a defensive back dove and hit Smith again, but no penalty flag was thrown for the late hit.
On another Smith run, the quarterback made it all the way to the 18-yard line before going down by a horse-collar tackle.
Not only did the sideline official not call the penalty, the North Surry bench received an unsportsmanlike penalty for reacting to the no-call. The 15-yard flag led to a North punt that went to the West Stokes 20-yard line.
West showed off its best passing attack, using short stop and curl routes to pick up three first downs to the Hounds’ 25. Then the Cats got greedy and tried to go deep, but Duncan broke up the play.
After a sack made it fourth-and-long from the 35, Fulk lofted a jump ball high in the air on the right side.
Smith, playing free safety, got under it and jumped up. However, the 6-foot-3 Hairston jumped up behind him and wrestled the ball away in the air at the 5-yard line. Then he turned and fought into the end zone for a 35-yard TD catch with just 53 seconds to play.
With an extra point, it was 20-17.
On the onside kick, Hull caught the ball and fell to the ground.
“I wish it hadn’t come down to an onside kick, but it did,” said Lyons. And of course, who was there but Hull. He was amazing, covering the whole field.
The partner who doesn’t get enough credit is Nick Huff, the coach said. “Nick takes on double teams that allows Casey to run free and make plays. That’s a big deal for this defense.”
Lyons also praised his team’s effort for the entire game. Sometimes, the players can have mental lapses, but this was a complete team effort, he said.
With running back Andrew Smith out with a broken wrist, Avery Smith has carried a heavier load.
Avery threw a couple of interceptions, but he also ran for more than 200 yards, Lyons noted.
Last year, Avery threw for 2,900 yards and was WPAC Offensive Player of the Year, the coach said. This year, the passing attack hasn’t been clicking yet, but he has faith that the team can pick it up for conference play.
Next week, the Hounds travel to Carver.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.