PILOT MOUNTAIN — Mount Airy jumped out to a big first-half lead and defeated East Surry 34-13 for the conference championship.
The Granite Bears finish the regular season 5-0 in the Northwest and 8-3 overall. East Surry falls to 9-2 and 4-1 in the conference.
After dropping the first two games of the season, the Bears won eight of the last nine games to finish atop the newly realigned conference.
Part of the Bears’ surge was getting a key running back in the lineup. Shay Wilson missed the start of the season as he recovered from a knee injury last season.
With Wilson and Davontae Dobson splitting carries, the running game and the scoring output showed dramatic improvement.
In Friday’s game, both Wilson and Dobson reached 100 yards rushing.
Wilson averaged about 10 yards a carry, and Dobson was even better than that after breaking off a 62-yard touchdown run to ice the game in the fourth quarter.
In the first quarter, neither team could generate any offense.
After a 50-yard kick return from Dylan Slate, the Cards’ first drive ended when a false start negated a quarterback sneak for a first down on fourth-and-1.
Wilson broke off a 61-yard run to switch field position, but Logan Holder was picked off on a bootleg pass by Casey Marion.
The Cards couldn’t move the ball and had to punt, but a bad snap resulted in the punter being tackled at his own 26-yard line.
The Bears couldn’t move the ball, either, but Mitchell Brown booted a 36-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 4:39 left in the first.
Mount Airy forced a three-and-out, but Caleb Horton fumbled the punt to give the Cards life.
However, another three-and-out gave the ball right back to the Bears.
The Cards seemed to have Mount Airy stopped on their own side of the field, but a roughing-the-passer call gave the Bears a first down at East’s 43-yard line.
After a run to the 35, Holder hit Horton on a fade pass down the left sideline to the 3-yard line. From there, fullback Andrew Jones scored for a 10-0 lead with 9:45 in the half.
On the next play from scrimmage, John Dickenson was picked off by Jones, who raced 27 yards for a second touchdown just 19 seconds after the first for a 17-0 lead with 9:26 left.
Gage Edwards returned the kickoff to midfield, but a deep pass by Dickenson turned into a jump ball between Jack Edwards and Mount Airy’s shorter Isiah Simmons. The smaller man outfought for the ball and came away with an interception at the 5-yard line.
The Bears took over at the 35 after Simmons’ return and a penalty. They moved down to the red zone and got another 36-yard field goal from Mitchell Brown for a 20-0 lead.
In the third quarter, the Bears had the ball first, but were forced to punt.
East Surry drove 75 yards for a score, with Koons getting most of it on a 53-yard run into the red zone. Koons then finished it off with a 2-yard run for a 20-6 margin with 4:04 in the quarter.
After a swap of punts, the Bears recovered a Koons fumble at East’s 40-yard line and drove in for a touchdown. Wilson scored from three yards out for a 27-6 lead in the fourth quarter.
East needed just 37 seconds to answer as Dickenson found Blake Marion for a 26-yard touchdown to make it 27-13 with 6:01 left.
However, Dobson would stop the momentum with a 62-yard run to cap a 73-yard drive for a 34-13 win.
While the Bears are the conference champions, both teams have qualified for the 1A playoffs.
The pairings will be announced by the N.C. High School Athletic Association some time this afternoon.