Sammy McMillian ran wild as North Surry put together a textbook first-half offensive performance against South Stokes on Friday night.
Michael Martin’s pick-six late in the fourth quarter essentially put the game out of reach.
McMillian, a junior tailback, rushed for 207 yards on 28 carries and four touchdowns and the Greyhounds held off the Sauras 40-35 in a Western Piedmont 2A Conference matchup at Charles Atkins Stadium.
“I want to thank my offensive line,” said McMillian, who scored on first-half touchdown runs of 12, 2, 5, and 16 yards. “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have any holes to run through. I especially want to thank my quarterback. We are brothers. We fight together.”
Senior quarterback Avery Smith was razor sharp in the first half — completing 7 of 8 passes for 129 yards and rushing for a touchdown. He finished the game 11 of 18 passing for 154 yards and had 12 carries for 43 yards. Smith’s go-to receivers were Chase Chandler, Darius Duncan and Reid Stanley.
The Greyhounds scored on their first five possessions and put up 26 points in the second quarter. North led 33-14 at halftime.
“That’s the best we’ve clicked all season offensively,” Greyhounds head coach Danny Lyons said. “The thing I’m proudest about is we didn’t turn it over. We were averaging about three turnovers a game…I thought Avery played a great first half. He was close to perfect the first half. Sammy ran the ball extremely hard. Sammy has got a great motor and he ran with a purpose tonight.”
Offensive linemen Jarrett Dehart, Ryan Eldridge, Alex Gudino, Dustin Young and Hunter Crouse all paved the way for McMillian’s big first half against the Sauras. He had 174 yards in the first half alone.
By halftime, Sauras head coach Paul Hall had seen enough.
“We challenged them, ‘Hey, throw the ball down the field if you are going to beat us.’ But you aren’t going to run it on us all night long like that,” Hall said.
The Sauras dared the Hounds to beat them through the air in the second half, and slowly began chipping away at the deficit. North’s three offensive possessions in the third quarter ended in a punt and two turnovers on downs — including one at the goal line. South trailed 33-22 with the football near midfield when Martin, a junior defensive back, picked off senior quarterback Austin Lilly and raced 60 yards for a back-breaking touchdown.
“I came off the line of scrimmage, read the screen, took one step and I just looked down and the ball was in my hands,” Martin said. “I just took off. I was just running as hard as I could. I was not about to get caught.”
After a first half where the offense was firing on all cylinders to the tune of five touchdowns, Martin’s defensive score turned out to be North’s only points of the second half.
“That was a heck of a play,” Lyons said. “It gave us the padding we needed to really just hold on. I hate that we had to hold on, but heck, I’m tickled with the win. Especially for these seniors.”
Michal Phillips and Kain Thomas ran hard in the second half and both tailbacks eclipsed the century mark for the Sauras. Thomas led the way with 121 yards on 17 carries and one rushing touchdown. Phillips finished with 110 yards on 19 carries with three rushing touchdowns. Phillips also had a TD reception.
Lilly completed 12 of 17 passes for 149 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Jonah Moorefield paced South with three catches for 77 yards, including a 52-yard catch in tight coverage that set up the Sauras’ first TD of the night.
North had another pick six wiped out on a roughing the passer penalty in the final minutes. The Sauras (2-8 overall, 0-4 WPC) made the Hounds pay with a late touchdown that made it a one-possession game, but Ivan Caro’s onside kick attempt sailed high and out of bounds. North took a knee to run out the clock.
“We are going to score points,” Hall said. “If we can get the defense to stop them the whole game, we can beat some people. We can play everybody out here. I don’t think they believed that last year as much. But they believe it this year. They don’t quit.
“It seems like when people feel like they can relax a little bit, we say ‘You better get your (starters) back out here. We are going to play the whole game.’”
The Sauras hosts Carver in the regular-season finale on Friday. North (4-5, 2-2) closes out the regular season on the road against Forbush.
“At times we dominated. We lost our focus defensively the second half,” Lyons said. “We’ve been a good defense all year. The second half we were not. But we are proud to get a win. If we win next week, we should be able to sneak in the playoffs.”