Pilot Mountain is expecting a huge crowd tonight as East Surry hosts Mount Airy in a winner-take-all game that highlights this week’s football slate.
North Surry and Surry Central have their Senior Nights, but they are both overshadowed by the matchup between two teams that are undefeated in Northwest Conference play. The winner not only gets the conference title, but the top seed for the league in the 1A state playoffs.
The Cardinals haven’t beaten the Granite Bears since 2006, but both coaches were quick to point out that those numbers don’t matter.
These are two completely different teams than the ones that played back then, Bear Coach Kelly Holder pointed out. What matters is that these are two good teams with something to play for.
Both teams are well prepared, and it is great to be playing for something meaningful in the last game of the regular season, echoed East Coach David Diamont.
In expectation of a big crowd, both schools sold advance tickets through the main offices.
Diamont said as of Wednesday he had heard that the schools had combined for more than 300 ticket sales.
Diamont and Holder have been at their respective schools for several years, so the coaching staffs are well prepared for what the other likes to do.
“There aren’t a whole lot of secrets,” said Holder.
“You can’t fool them, so you just have to execute and be physical,” said Diamont.
While the players and fans have been pumped up all week, Diamont said he and his coaches have tried to keep the same routine and treat this like any other game.
Looking at the Bears’ roster, Diamont said one of his biggest concerns is that Mount Airy’s offensive line is going to outweight the defender across from him by about 50 pounds per man.
In order to overcome that, the players have to be well prepared to get in the right spots and know the angles that the blockers want to use, he said. Coach Randy Marion has done a fine job prepping the defense all season and will have the unit ready tonight.
“Their defense is really good so we have to score when we have opportunities,” said Holder. The Cardinals are a solid team. Those kids now believe they can win, and that’s a big step.
As for the Cards’ offense, Holder said Lucas Koons is a good running back, but who he has noticed is quarterback John Dickenson.
“The maturation of their quarterback over the season,” he said of Dickenson. “He’s doing some good things for them.”
The Bears are still missing Andrew Moore and Chris McNeal, but should get running back Shay Wilson back tonight. Wilson and Davontae Dobson have given the Bears an improved run game since the first month of the season.
Diamont said the Cards have some guys dinged up, but he isn’t missing any starters to injury this week.
In an interesting side note this week, Bear historian Doug McDaniel reports that the N.C. High School Athletic Association has acknowledged that Mount Airy now holds the record for the longest streak of games without a shutout.
Holder has never been held scoreless since joining Mount Airy — the closest was three points in a loss to East Surry in 2002.
The last shutout of the Bears was in a playoff game with Murphy in 1996, a 19-0 loss with Eddie Cobb as the coach.
“According to the record book, Garner scored in 199 consecutive games. Mount Airy now stands at 222,” wrote McDaniel in a letter to the NCHSAA.
In the Western Piedmont Conference, the playoff race starts with Carver at 4-0 and then four other teams are tied for second place at 2-2.
Those four teams are in action tonight as North Surry hosts Forbush and Surry Central hosts West Stokes.
West Stokes is 5-1 in nonconference play, while the other three are at .500 or worse outside the Western Piedmont.
This is a really big game tonight with the Wildcats, said Central Coach Monty Southern. The Golden Eagles could finish as high as second place or slide as low as fifth.
If the Eagles win, then they get into the 2A playoffs, the coach said. But, a loss likely leaves the team out.
There are so many 2A teams across the state now with five wins, noted North Coach Danny Lyons. Central is 5-5 on the season and North is 4-6, so both need to get in based off the conference seeding rather than hoping for a wild card.
Lyons said he hates to cheer against Central, but his team would be better off if West Stokes wins.
North Surry beat West Stokes, but lost to Surry Central, so Lyons has a tiebreaker against the Wildcats.
Like Mount Airy and East Surry, these 2A teams are very familiar with each other.
Southern said the Wildcats look a lot like they have in the past with huge linemen and a dual-threat quarterback.
“Defensively they are always really physical,” he said. Southern has known West Coach Jimmy Upchurch since the latter was a defensive coordinator for Diamont.
Forbush wasn’t in the same conference with North, Central and West Stokes last year, but Lyons pointed out that the Greyhounds played the Falcons every year in the nonconference schedule.
When Lyons was fresh out of college, he spent a year as a student assistant at Mount Airy where Chris Johnson was an assistant coach. Now they are both head coaches and meet each year, usually in the first week of the season instead of the last.
North Surry is 2-2 in the conference, but really played well in 15 of those 16 quarters, Lyons said. The team lost to Carver but played a great game to a better team. Then it played well for three quarters before letting Central mount a big comeback.
Forbush doesn’t beat itself like North Surry has at times, Lyons said, but a win and finishing second in the conference will make all those bad memories fade away.