This Friday will mark the first chance for area teams to compare themselves with real competition, as the defending state champion Mount Airy Granite Bears host a seven-on-seven day, just one day prior to the official beginning of full-contact practices.
With a new conference alignment bringing Mount Airy, North Surry, East Surry and Surry Central into the reformed Northwest 1A/2A, the inter-county rivalries take on a new meaning.
Both the Bears and Cardinals face tough competition early in the season, with Mount Airy taking on 2A and 3A opponents in its first four games of the season, including Starmount, Ashe, Thomasville and Parkwood.
East Surry will travel to Starmount and Bartlett Yancey while hosting North Lincoln, before opening the conference season against Surry Central.
North Surry has the unfortunate position of playing five of it’s first seven games on the road, including hosting former Mountain Valley 2A foe Starmount and a long trip to Ashe County, last season’s MVC 2A champion.
While prognostications at this point of the season can be a little hazy, when analyzing the 2009 schedule several dates stick out.
Following are the Mount Airy News’ sports departments choice for the top five 2009 matchups featuring the four teams in the Mount Airy News sports coverage area.
Aug. 28 — Mount Airy at Thomasville
While no one expects the Granite Bears to equal last season’s steamroller-like success, this season’s incarnation of the Bears will certainly not be a pushover.
Their early schedule is a no cake-walk, with several games which could determine the course of the Bears’ season taking place in the first four weeks of the year. But one early date screams for attention above all the others; an Aug. 28 trip to defending 1A champion Thomasville, a matchup which deserves highlighting because of the recent dominance of both schools in the 1A classification.
While Mount Airy and Thomasville were forced to separate playoffs brackets last season, there was little disagreement the two squads represented the top-two 1A teams in the Western region. While Mount Airy is not the same team it was a year ago, neither is Thomasville, with the matchup giving fans and players from both sides a chance to get an up-close and personal view of the other side.
Oct. 2 — East Surry at West Stokes
With the Northwest 1A/2A conference schedule not kicking off until the last week in September, October is sure to be when the area action begins to come to a boil, with this matchup highlighting the opening week.
West Stokes finished last season 9-4 overall and second to 2A state champion Reidsville in the North State conference, while East Surry finished third in the Northwest 1A behind Mount Airy and Elkin.
This season, both teams will look to make a splash in the new conference alignment, with this game marking what could be a key victory for conference positioning in November.
Oct. 16 — Mount Airy at North Surry
This heated and revered rivalry continues at the home of the Greyhounds, this time with added importance.
In last season’s meeting, the Greyhounds scored the most points on the Granite Bears of any team in 2008, eventually losing 48-20. This season, the matchup will have the added implication of conference standing, which hasn’t been a factor in recent years with the two teams in different classifications.
North Surry will look to gain a huge confidence and momentum building victory under first-year head coach Brian Hampton, while coach Kelly Holder will certainly hope to travel into his alma mater and give Hampton a cold reception into one of the biggest football rivalries in the area.
Oct. 23 — North Surry at Surry Central
The only two Mountain Valley 2A teams to make the move to the Northwest conference meet in a game of extreme importance with little time left in the season.
Not only is this game highlighted because of the obvious county ties, this season the Greyhounds will head into Dobson with just two games remaining looking to knock off the Golden Eagles on their homecoming night.
In addition to the emotional aspect of homecoming, the Golden Eagles and Greyhounds could be battling for possible playoff considerations.
Surry Central takes pride in its tradition and program and a loss to cross county rival North on homecoming could be considered a disaster in Dobson.
Nov. 6 — Mount Airy at East Surry
What a way to end a regular season. Last season’s matchup of this rabid rivalry was highly touted and promoted as one of Mount Airy’s final tests against a Northwest Conference opponent before heading into the playoffs.
That hype didn’t come to fruition however, as the Bears handed coach David Diamont and his Cardinals a demoralizing 48-8 defeat in front of a massive crowd.
This season is a whole new ball game however, with both teams looking to fill holes created by graduating starters, particularly in the offensive backfield and defensive fronts.
Adding to the intensity of an already strong rivalry is the fact the matchup just happens to fall on the Cardinals’ “senior night.” Parking should be in short supply for this game, as both teams could be hovering around the top of the Northwest Conference, with even the possibility of playoff qualification hanging in the balance. This could be the most exciting game of the 2009 season as far as lead-up and hype.
North Surry Greyhounds
Aug. 15 - West Wilkes (location and time TBA)
Aug. 21 - @ Forbush
Aug. 28 - @ Elkin
Sep. 4 - Starmount
Sep. 11 - @Ashe Co. (Endowment)
Sep. 18 - OPEN
Sep. 25 - Bishop McGuinness
Oct. 2 - @ North Stokes
Oct. 9 - @ South Stokes
Oct. 16 - Mount Airy
Oct. 23 - @ Surry Central
Oct. 30 - East Surry
Nov. 6 - West Stokes
Mount Airy Granite Bears
Aug. 21 - Starmount
Aug. 28 - @ Thomasville
Sep. 4 - Ashe Co.
Sep. 11 - @ Parkwood
Sep. 18 - OPEN
Sep. 25 - West Stokes
Oct. 2 - @ Surry Central
Oct. 9 - North Stokes (Homecoming)
Oct. 16 - @ North Surry
Oct 23 - Bishop McGuinness
Oct. 30 - @ South Stokes
Nov. 6 - @ East Surry
East Surry Cardinals
Aug. 21 - @ St. Stephens (Endowment)
Aug. 28 - @ Starmount
Sep. 4 - North Lincoln
Sep. 11 - OPEN
Sep. 18 - @ Bartlett Yancey
Sept 25 - Surry Central
Oct. 2 - @ West Stokes
Oct. 9 - Bishop McGuinness
Oct. 16 - South Stokes (Homecoming)
Oct. 23 - @ North Stokes
Oct. 30 - @ North Surry
Nov. 6 - Mount Airy
Surry Central Golden Eagles
Aug. 21 - Elkin
Aug. 28 - East Wilkes
Sep. 4 - @ Wilkes Central
Sep. 11 - Trinity (Endowment)
Sep. 18 - OPEN
Sep. 25 - @ East Surry
Oct. 2 - Mount Airy
Oct. 9 - @ West Stokes
Oct. 16 - @ Bishop McGuinnness
Oct. 23 - North Surry (Homecoming)
Oct. 30 - @ North Stokes
Nov. 6 - South Stokes