WEST JEFFERSON —North Surry mounted a furious second-half comeback but fell one drive short to Ashe County.
Down as many as 24 points, the Greyhounds cut the lead to seven points early in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies scored again to go up 50-36, but North answered with another score to make it 50-42.
The Hounds stopped Ashe and got the ball back for a two-minute drive. Unfortunately, after one first down, the drive stalled and the Huskies got the ball back via a turnover on down.
When someone picks up the paper and sees that the final was 50-42, the reader is going to think there was no defense played, said head coach Danny Lyons. On the contrary, the two defenses created nine turnovers in this game.
It was just feast or famine, Lyons explained. The offenses didn’t punt much because they either scored, or the defense took the ball away.
The Hounds had more than 400 yards of offense and the defense made five interceptions, yet they drop their first game of the year on the road.
Things were going pretty well in the first quarter, Lyons said. The Hounds gave up a safety, but then they stayed even with the Huskies, scoring two touchdowns each to trail 16-14.
“Really what it came down to was we were playing about 15 kids and they were playing 25 guys,” said Lyons.
The Hounds had several young men playing both ways, while Ashe didn’t have anyone going both ways.
The heat and humidity didn’t help as the teams played the first game of the season, not yet molded into full game shape.
It didn’t help that Ashe was calling pass plays about 70, 75 percent of the time, the coach noted. The defensive backs were chasing receivers all over the field on every snap.
In the second quarter, the players were feeling winded, and mental fatigue kicked in, too, he said. Players made a few mistakes because they were getting tired. That two-point margin jumped up to 30-14 at the break.
The defense also was hurt by an early injury. On the third play of the game, starting cornerback Corbin Bullins suffered a deep knee bruise and left the game. It swelled up and kept him from returning, the coach said.
Ashe QB Connor Bowers completed 15-29 passes for 365 yards and six touchdowns. However, he also had five interceptions.
Colton Acord picked off two passes, and Nolan Stanley, Bryan Martin and Tanner Hodgin had one each.
Bryan was huge for the team both with his play and his leadership, said Lyons. He hurt one of the vertebrae in his neck against Ashe in last season’s opener and missed the rest of the year.
On Friday, Martin stepped up as one of the vocal leaders and helped spark the team in the third quarter with his interception.
Down 16 points at the break, Lyons told his team that they were just two big plays away from tying it up.
He and his staff made a decision to play more guys to give the starters rests.
Sure, the backups are young and inexperienced, but they repaid the coaches’ faith by giving plenty of effort, he said.
The Hounds outscored the home team in the second half and looked like the fresher squad in the fourth quarter, he added.
Down 44-20 midway through the third quarter, the Hounds scored twice and made the two-point conversions to close to 44-36.
The defense pushed Ashe back and was on the verge of getting the ball back for the offense, which clearly had all the momentum.
Dakota Goss had gotten a couple of sacks in the quarter, and Nick Huff had a sack.
Ashe was facing a third-and-25 and went for a short screen. The receiver broke a tackle and took off 70 yards to score to make it 50-36.
That play was a pivotal moment and could have crushed a team’s morale, but North Surry showed a lot of heart, said Lyons.
Acord caught 5-yard pass and raced 65 yards to the end zone to make it 50-42. After a missed extra point, the Hounds needed a stop.
The defense got that stop and gave the offense a chance.
The team came up a little short, but it was great to see the boys rally in the second half and never give up, said Lyons.
As expected, running back Goss had a big game, racking up 165 yards on 24 carries.
Not as expected, quarterback Stanley went for 275 yards and three TDs.
Nolan was 14-28 and gave a great effort, said Lyons. That’s like three games’ worth of passing attempts for this team.
Stanley had three interceptions, but Lyons said only one of those was a bad play.
One INT came near the end of the first half when North was trying for a big play before the final whistle. Another came on some bad luck when a ball was tipped up into the air near the line of scrimmage.
Acord made five catches for about 120 yards and two TDs.
Hodgin had a career night with six catches for 135 yards and a TD.
Tanner isn’t a speed burner, the coach said. All of his catches came in traffic with somebody hitting him after the catch.
Not only that, but Tanner played both ways all night, getting in on about 145 snaps with Bullins injured.
The Hounds make their home debut this week as they host Elkin on Friday.