The dreaded “Murphy’s Law” has the North Surry football team in its grip, and it won’t let the Greyhounds go.
The Hounds came into their Homecoming battle with West Stanly missing three key starters from its projected lineup to begin the season, including leading rusher Andrew Smith, who broke his hand earlier this week. The team promptly dug itself into a 20-0 hole in the second quarter.
But then North Surry tenaciously fought back, scoring on its final possession of the first half and its first one of the second. Then the Hounds’ defense rose up and stuffed the Colts on their next series. With 9:07 left in the third quarter, North trailed just 20-14 and was set to get the ball in great field position with all of the momentum.
Enter Murphy again.
On a third-and-long play, West Stanly quarterback Cameron Brown had rolled to his right, only to get caught by Hound defender Michael Martin near the visiting sideline. As Martin made the stop, teammate Avery Simmons raced over to finish the play off. Both Brown and Martin got up. Simmons didn’t.
Play was halted for about 18 minutes while team trainers and then paramedics came to Simmons’ aid. The junior, who is a standout on both the Hounds’ football and wrestling teams, was thought not to be seriously injured, but taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
In the meantime, the Colts, who had been knocked back on their heels by the North Surry rally, steadied themselves and stopped North Surry after West’s punt reached only the Hounds’ 47-yard line.
“You can’t blame a hurt player, but they had that long delay, and when they came back out, they hit us a little harder than we hit them,” said North Surry head coach Danny Lyons.
Injuries have been a problem for the Hounds all season. They have not fielded their entire regular starting lineup in any of their six games this season.
“My team is facing anything possible,” said Lyons. “We lost Hank Ward today, he was going to start at nose, and we found that out at 4 today he was sick. Andrew Smith broke his hand over the last weekend. Casey Hull, our leading tackler, was out again. That’s not an excuse for losing, because we still had a chance to win this game, but it hurts.”
North kept playing hard after the injury, but could never find a rhythm with its offense again. Two series after the injury to Simmons, the Colts drove 76 yards and scored a touchdown on an 18-yard catch-and-run by Nick Badgett with 4:28 remaining in the third quarter. That made the score 27-14, which held up until the end of the game.
North Surry still had chances to get back into the game, but shot itself in the foot.
Following West Stanly’s last score, the Hounds appeared to have reached the Colts’ 15 on a long run by Avery Smith, but it was called back for a holding penalty, a spot foul that moved the ball all the way back to the North 32. They ended up allowing a sack and committing another infraction, and punting on fourth-and-33.
“I’m proud of them for fighting to the end, (but) we’ve got to come together on some things,” Lyons said. “We need to be a little mentally tougher at times, a little more disciplined at times.”
The Hounds would move the ball into West Stanly territory two more times in the fourth quarter, but lost both drives to interceptions, one of which was a ball that went off the hands of a North Surry player to one of the Colts.
When North wasn’t having bad luck, it was making costly mistakes, and West Stanly (4-1) isn’t a team that really needs help.
Just 50 seconds into the game, the Hounds lost containment on a simple running play, which Badgett turned into an 81-yard romp that put North Surry in a 6-0 hole before it even had the ball.
The Hounds look set to make a quick response. Avery Smith found Reid Stanley for a 19-yard gain to the West 41 on their first play from scrimmage. Then the quarterback called his own number and got to the 27, but the drive stalled there. They ended up losing the ball on downs at the 21.
Two series later for the Colts, they found themselves pinned back on their 2-yard line after one of several outstanding punts delivered by North’s Izzy Garcia during the night. However, the visitors proceeded to hack out a 98-yard scoring march, converting three third downs, and finally scoring on a five-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Conner Edwards with 1:37 left in the opening period.
The Hounds marched right back to the West Stanly 5-yard line, but the Colts’ Joseph Izaguirre intercepted a pass in the flat on second-and-goal and returned it to the 40. Again, it was a ball that one of the North players had tipped before the pick. But bad went to worse when the turnover led to a 60-yard scoring march for the Colts and a 20-0 lead on a one-yard run by Malik Jackson with 5:20 left in the first half.
The home team didn’t immediately pick itself up off the deck, with another quick three-and-out. But Garcia stepped up with a 48-yard punt down to the West 16, and Lyons called timeout to challenge his defense to stop the Colts. They did, and North Surry got the ball back at its own 41 with 2:52 left in the first half.
On second down, Darius Duncan hauled in a 12-yard reception to the West 45, and then Avery Smith dashed for 10 more on the next play. A few plays later, Carson Todd hauled in a 15-yard strike for a first down at the 13. Another quarterback keeper brought the Hounds to the 2 with time ticking away, and two more sneaks got Smith into the end zone with 15 seconds left in the first half. Garcia’s point-after made it 20-7 going into intermission, where Callie Younger was named the Maid of Honor and Maggie Hawks the Homecoming Queen for 2016.
North Surry had the ball to open the second half and looked set to take control of the game. Avery Smith took the ball 12 yards to midfield on his team’s second play from scrimmage, and then two plays after that, Darius Duncan beat his man down the middle of the field in single coverage, hauled in a Smith pass around the 10, and walked into the end zone. Another Garcia point-after pulled the Hounds within six points.
North Surry is off for a week before starting conference play at home against West Stokes on Oct. 7.
“We need a bye, and hopefully we’re going to use this bye to get healthy. If we can get healthy and just put four quarters together, we’ll have a chance to win ballgames,” Lyons said.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.