A trio of sophomores stepped up Friday night to lead Mount Airy to a convincing 52-14 win over West Montgomery.
Halfback Shay Wilson, fullback Andrew Jones and defensive back Caleb Horton all came up big for the Granite Bears, who saw yet another player leave the field with an injury. Offensive lineman Jarred Jenkins came off the field in agony, clutching at his right shoulder and arm.
Wilson and Jones combined for 278 rushing yards and six of the seven Bear touchdowns.
Horton made two second-half interceptions. One was in the end zone and saved a score; the other was returned about 30 yards to set up another score.
The sophomores had to step up with all the players out of action, Jones said after the game.
Another player was lost to a questionable ejection call late in the third quarter.
West Montgomery quarterback Caleb Drake, who ran 24 times in the game, was under pressure from Julian Rawley who came off the edge. Just as Rawley was about to make a tackle, Drake dropped his head.
Rawley was flagged 15 yards for illegal touching to the helmet and then was ejected. By rule, being tossed out of the game also prevents Rawley from playing next week.
“It was a great play by Julian, coming off the edge,” said Coach Kelly Holder. “It is sad that it (the call) takes away a kid’s playoff game next week.”
The coach hopes to get the ruling changed during the coming week.
“I know we’re going to appeal it,” he said. “We’re going to send the tape in.”
On Mount Airy’s first possession, the Warriors held the Bears to a three-and-out. The Bears returned the favor, and Austin Taylor took a low punt back to the Warrior 31-yard line.
After a two-yard run by Zaqwan Dobson, Taylor scrambled right and fired a ball to Darius Gwyn on the right edge of the end zone for a 29-yard TD. With the first of his seven extra points, Mitchell Brown pushed the lead to 7-0 with 7:45 left in the first.
The rest of the quarter went the Warriors’ way, however.
West used an option attack to pick up first downs all the way to the 37-yard line. A pass moved the ball to the 25-yard line, but then the Warriors fumbled the ball at the 24 and Benji Hicks recovered.
Unfortunately, Taylor fumbled the ball right back. He attempted a fake handoff to Dobson, but the ball appeared to bump off Dobson’s hip.
The Warriors started over at the 24 and finished the drive with a 20-yard run off a toss play to Suave Pegues. With 3:39 in the first, the score was tied 7-all.
The Bears moved the ball close to midfield before Jenkins came out with his injury.
After some early carries for Dobson, the Bears went with Wilson for some speed on the edge. On his first two carries he went 13 yards.
Then on first down, Taylor had his second fumble of the quarter.
Drake ran from the 32 to the 49-yard line on the next play. Then Pegues got free on the edge and ran all the way to the red zone.
Gwyn made a fine play to prevent a touchdown. He took on a blocker, then shed his man to make a tackle.
Unfortunately, the Warriors scored on the next play off a fullback dive for a 14-7 lead with 15.3 seconds left.
Holder said the defense was hurt early on by those option toss plays, but the defensive coaches huddled with the guys and made some adjustments that worked well.
That was an understatement.
Pegues had picked up big yardage in the first and had a hand in both scores. After that, however, the Bears held him in check the rest of the way.
In the meantime, the offense stopped turning the ball over and ran off 45 consecutive points to blow the game open.
The turning point came at the start of the second quarter.
A fake to Dobson and a pitch to Gwyn netted good yardage to the Warrior 32-yard line.
After a lineman stepped on Taylor’s foot and caused him to fall, it was third-and-12. Taylor scrambled five yards, but that brought up fourth-and-7.
Holder went for it and ran two receivers deep. Then they went with a short middle screen to Chris McNeil who fought for that last yard to move the chains.
Three plays later, the Bears had fourth-and-1 at the 12-yard line and went for it again. Dobson powered forward for 10 yards to the 2, and Wilson finished off the drive on the next play. That tied the game 14-14 with 7:26 in the second.
Taylor more than made up for his two fumbles as he came up big on both offense and defense.
He broke up two passes and made a good play on an option toss that forced a couple of punts. Then he made good yardage on the punt returns before going under center to lead the team to two more touchdowns and a field goal in the rest of the quarter.
Wilson set up one of those scores with a 57-yard run, weaving through the defense to the 5-yard line. Jones finished it from there for a 21-14 score.
After a good punt return from Taylor, Wilson raced 31 yards to the end zone for a 28-14 lead with 3:49 left.
Then the Bears got the ball back with 2:39 and ran out almost all the clock before getting a 24-yard field goal from Brown with 9.3 seconds left.
Down 31-14, the Warriors began the second half moving the ball well. However, the defense held and forced a turnover on downs.
Jones and Wilson moved the ball downfield and scored again to make it 38-14.
After that, Horton made his two interceptions, and the Bear rushing attack chewed up yards and the clock.
Wilson finished with 13 carries for 191 yards (14.7 yards per carry). Jones had 10 carries for 87 yards, including a 51-yard TD run.
Adding in Taylor and Dobson, the Bears combined for 44 rushes for 329 yards.
Passing, Taylor was 4-7 for 81 yards, including three balls to Gwyn for 72 yards and a TD.
The Bears (12-1) next host the Monroe Red Hawks, who crushed East Surry 53-0.
Reach Jeff Linville at email@example.com or at 719-1920.