Mount Airy and East Surry have fought many times for conference football titles and the right to boast for a year in the annual slugfest.
Tonight, for the first time in the schools’ history, the Bears and Cardinals meet in the state playoffs when East makes the short trip up Highway 52 to Mount Airy’s Shelton Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The winner of tonight’s second round Class 1AA West playoff game moves on. The loser is done for the season.
The Mount Airy-East Surry game has turned into arguably the fiercest rivalry in Surry County. Coach Dave Diamont of East Surry has been on both sides of the rivalry — he was the head coach at Mount Airy in the early to mid 1990s.
“Sometimes I think the Mount Airy passion has become equal with East Surry as it is with North Surry, which speaks well for our competition,” Diamont said. “It’s always been there. It’s exciting. I think since (Mount Airy head coach) Jerry Hollingsworth, you sort of measure your team based on your performance against Mount Airy.”
Mount Airy (9-3) got the best of East Surry in the regular-season meeting, winning 34-13 in Pilot Mountain. Shay Wilson and Devontae Dobson had success on the ground against the Cards, as both hit the 100-yard rushing mark in the game.
For the season, Dobson has a team-high 138 carries for 745 yards and 13 touchdowns. Wilson has 103 carries for 771 yards and 13 touchdowns. Wilson had a big night against the Eagles — rushing 19 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns last week. The Bears also feature 6-foot, 220-pound Andrew Jones in the backfield. He has 92 carries for 497 yards and eight rushing touchdowns this season.
On defense, Wilson, Isaiah Simmons, E.J. Helton and Caleb Horton had six tackles apiece against East Mongtomery.
Quarterback Logan Holder has completed 72 of 131 passes for 1,155 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions. Horton, the team’s leading receiver, has 30 catches for 523 yards and five TDs.
Mount Airy has won six in a row and is coming off a 28-7 win against East Montgomery in the first round.
The Cardinals (10-2) were impressive in their opening round victory against Walkertown, winning 37-10. East’s defense was relentless, keeping the Wolfpack out of the end zone until the final seconds when the game was well out of reach. Keanu Love recorded five of the Cards’ 11 sacks in the game. Christian Shinault had three sacks. Love and Shinault each had eight tackles. Diamont said he was particularly pleased with the play of the secondary against Walkertown.
Junior running back Lucas Koons is the team’s leading rusher with 212 carries for 1,276 yards and 17 touchdowns. Senior quarterback John Dickenson is 61 of 117 passing for 962 yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the season. Dickenson and John Snow each threw TD passes against the Wolfpack.
Diamont noted that Walkertown and Mount Airy are the exact opposites. The Wolfpack prefer to throw the football a lot on offense, while the Bears are more of a power running team.
“Walkertown is a lot more predictable. Mount Airy’s offensive skill set is more physical, and they are much less predictable than Walkertown,” Diamont said. “Their offensive line is very good. Everybody knows they have Isaiah King and (Sihem) Smith. But (Zack) Casstevens is just as good, and the other kids are better than adequate. Offensive line coach Donald Price has done a good job. They have that dynamic duo in the backfield. Jones, is a typical, hard-nosed, I-formation runner. Wilson is a very good north-south runner, he’s hard to tackle and he doesn’t have to have much space to run.
“Horton, you can put him out there by himself and throw it to him 20 times a game. Logan may be the most accurate thrower we’ve seen. They are a full load on offense.”
Diamont said Mount Airy played well in the regular-season meeting, but added that his players were a little too excited for the game. Mount Airy scored 17 points in the second quarter and led 20-0 at the half.
“We helped them in some areas with turnovers, and we didn’t put points on the board when we should have,” he said. “We are going to have to be consistent. We can’t get too high or too low. There are going to be times in the game, when there are big plays. We have to have a short memory. When we’ve got the football we have to move the chains.”
A few of the players who have played particularly well lately for the Cards according to Diamont are Koons, Casey Marion (linebacker/fullback), Josh Fregia (center) and Shinault (defensive/offensive lineman).
East will be without two of its linemen — Corben Kiser and Chase Gammons, both of whom are out for the season with leg injuries.
Mount Airy has won the last seven head-to-head meetings. Coach Kelly Holder of Mount Airy did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Thursday night.
The winner of tonight’s game will play either West Montgomery or North Stanly in a third round game.