The athletes on the field have been rivals since they played against one another in Little League. The rivalry that exists between the two schools pre-dates the young players’ births, its intensity passed down from grandfather to father to son. These student-athletes took the field Friday night to not only play football, but to represent community. This game was not simply about putting scores on the board, but about pride.
Excitement amongst the throng of fans built before the opening kick-off, each side eager to determine which team would sit on top of the 1A/2A Northwest Conference. After 48 minutes of football, the Mount Airy Granite Bears had posted 37 points to the North Surry Greyhounds’ 7 points and found themselves number one in conference play.
North Surry possessed the ball first, and in three short downs found itself having to surrender the ball. On the punt, an errant snap flew over the head of the Greyhound quarterback and provided the Bears with a safety as well as possession of the football. Five offensive plays later, Mount Airy’s Jordan Schwartz scored a touchdown, Dylan Wright provided the Bear extra-point, and the Greyhounds prepared for the kick-off bewildered and devoid of the momentum that had energized the crowd two minutes earlier. Bears led nine points.
On North Surry’s second possession, Greyhound junior quarterback Alex Ratcliff, starting for the injured senior Tanner Hiatt, put the ball in Joston Phipps’ hands. The senior running back had accumulated more than 1,200 yards of rushing in his previous seven games. He was responsible for 19 of the Greyhounds’ 26 touchdowns this season. The Bears had other plans for the quick and nimble Phipps. During North Surry’s possession, Phipps could only pick-up 22 yards and one first down against the Bear defense and once again, North Surry was forced to punt.
Things seemed to settle-down for North Surry. The Greyhound defense held the Bears to three downs and regained possession of the ball at mid-field. Ratcliff and Chase Gough connected on a 35-yard reception to get the Hounds within the red zone and a Ratcliff pass to Jonathan Brown moved the football within 10 yards of a score and gave the Greyhounds a first down. But the Granite Bear defense was not to be trifled with. In the next three downs, the Bears denied North Surry a much desired touchdown. On fourth down, the Greyhounds set-up for a field goal, but after a North Surry time-out, the boys in blue and grey decided to go for six. On the option, Ratcliff tossed the ball to the speedy Phipps, but waiting for him was Mount Airy’s L.J. Goins. The Greyhounds were denied a score.
Late in the second quarter, Mount Airy moved the football down the field on the legs of running backs Schwartz and Demitius Rucker. Like Clydesdale horses, the two Bear running backs doggedly and determinedly whittled away yardage and earned first downs. With a little more than three minutes remaining in the first half, Rucker punched the football into the end zone for another Mount Airy score. The Bears posted two extra points on Ben Hinson’s quarterback sneak. At the end of the half, Mount Airy led 17-0.
The second half began with a penalty against the Bears for coming out on the field late. The Greyhounds’ Jacob Hauser kicked off to the Bears just shy of mid-field. The Bears began their offensive drive on their own 9-yard line. Once again, the Bears moved the ball downfield courtesy of Schwartz and Rucker, but two penalties, one for offensive holding and one for unsportsmanlike conduct, backed the Bears up and forced the punt. A mental mistake by the North Surry punt receiver put the ball again in the hands of Hinson. On this possession, Mount Airy would drive down the field and score on a Hinson quarterback sneak. Wright missed the extra point.
Things continued to go wrong for the Greyhounds. Within two downs, Mount Airy’s Jokton Moore would intercept a Ratcliff pass. Hinson would connect with wide receiver Austin Taylor to move the ball to North Surry’s 34-yard line. Former Greyhound Terry Adams would take it the rest of the way and score with 42 seconds left in the third quarter. The point after touchdown would not be good. Mount Airy would score once in the fourth quarter when Rucker picked up a Greyhound fumble and ran the ball in for a touchdown. The extra point by Eduardo Garcia would be good.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Greyhounds were scoreless. Phipps would rectify this with a 98-yard kick-off return with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Hauser would make the extra point. These seven points would be the only points the Greyhounds could muster against a formidable Mount Airy defense.
After the game, North Surry coach Brian Hampton said, “We do not know how to play big games yet. Mount Airy does. They’ve played in the state championship.”
Mount Airy’s Schwartz and Rucker still energized after the game were appreciative to the Bear O-Line.
“Our line opened up holes, and we found the alleys,” said Schwartz.
Rucker added, “We want to thank the Hawgs,” referring to the Bears offensive line.
Regarding the attention and expectation that surrounds the Mount Airy-North Surry game, Coach Kelly Holder said, “This week is just hectic. It is not one I look forward to with so much going on. I am glad it is over.”
Holder does appreciate the significance of the game against the Greyhounds and appreciated the community that supports it.
“It’s great to win a game like this,” said Holder, “It’s good for our community and for our fans who offer us great support.”
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a rival as a person or thing that tries to get or do the same thing as another or tries to surpass another. Friday night, two old rivals battled and the Granite Bears surpassed the Greyhounds to be on top of the conference.
MA 9 8 1 3 7 37
NS 0 0 0 7 — 7