Thursday Night Lights just doesn’t have the same ring to it when it comes to high school football. But don’t tell the football teams of North Surry and East Surry that, because they just put on a barn-burner of a game.
In a game Coach Danny Lyons compared to a boxing match, two teams went to war and slugged it out in the middle of the field. After 48 minutes, the Greyhounds stood tall with a 24-20 victory.
The boys of fall wasted little time in starting the show. North Surry’s Nick Badgett was shot out of cannon and was primed to give the Hounds decent field position before a sea of red jerseys forced and recovered a fumble. Now playing with house money, East Surry quarterback Jefferson Boaz lobbed a pass to the end zone that was intercepted by Keaton Ward of North Surry. Two forced turnovers in less than a minute proved this would be a close game.
The home team began the next drive deep in its own territory, but slowly made their way out with monster runs by Sammy McMillian and Ryan Smith. The duo, dubbed a two-headed monster by Coach Lyons, earned first down after first down and combined for 210 rushing yards. McMillian was able to absorb contact and gain an extra 3 or 4 yards after being hit. Despite the work done on the ground , North Surry settled for a field goal by Ethan Evans to take a 3-0 lead with 3:33 left in the first quarter.
The Cardinals took over and showed off their star running back, Joey Ray. The North Surry defense had their work cut out for them containing Ray. Ray bobbed and weaved like he was lathered in butter to move the chains. East Surry went away from their bread and butter when they attempted more short passes that were batted down by the Greyhound cornerbacks. East Surry punted on fourth down to begin the second quarter.
North Surry was unable to capitalize when East punted and kicked the ball back into the hands of the Cards. Instead of inching down the field, East Surry gave the ball to Ray and let him work his magic. Ray had an incredible 59-yard run to put the Cardinals in the red zone. Just when things were looking up for the visiting team, a forced fumble halted their run and gave the ball to the Hounds with 7:05 until halftime.
The Greyhounds engaged in a classic game of one-upsmanship when Chase Swartz threw an absolute bomb down field to Badgett, picking up 60+ yards on the play. A number of short passes put the Hounds in scoring position. Smith capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run to increase the Greyhound lead to 10.
East Surry’s next drive ended with another turnover, another interception caught by the Greyhounds’ Ward. Ward returned the interception for a touchdown, but the score was taken back after a block in the back call. The Greyhounds were deflated from the call and ended up punting the ball to the Cardinals’ Ray, who ran the ball to the North Surry 40-yard line with 52 seconds left. A few runs from Ray and a personal foul call against North Surry set the Cards up for a touchdown pass to Austin Pardue to close the gap to 10-7 going into halftime.
The opening kickoff went to the Cardinals, who wasted no time advancing up the field. Ray had two huge runs that put the Cards on the 40-yard line of the Hounds. East Surry switched gears and moved gradually down the field. Ray finished the drive with an 8-yard run, capping off the Cardinals’ longest drive of the game with the clock reading 5:33. The Cardinals held their first lead of 14-10.
The response from the Greyhounds was quick and deadly. Smith couldn’t be stopped as he marched down the field, taking the hope of the Cardinals’ defense as well as time on the clock with him. Smith waltzed into the end zone on a two-yard run to regain the lead 17-14 with 1:53 left in the third. East Surry tried to counter, but a sack by North Surry forced a three-and-out to start the fourth quarter.
Showing no signs of letting up, Smith and Darius Duncan progressed down the field on a series of short runs and passes. Smith ran in his third touchdown of the evening with 10:03 on the clock. Smith’s touchdown came just one play after a mass of humanity came hurling straight at yours truly, forcing a less than graceful jump from an uncoordinated reporter.
Now down 24-14, East Surry played with a sense of urgency to try to score quickly. This is where the North Surry defense truly showed maturity. Ray’s attempts to march down the field were slowed down by the likes of Avery Simmons. Lyons gave a lot of praise to Ray as one of the best backs in the area in a long time, and was ecstatic at his teams ability to suppress him.
The Cardinals gained significant yardage, but were called for numerous penalties on this drive. Though East Surry made progress down the field, time was slipping away. The Cards finally got the ball in the end zone on a Quincy Smith reception with 3:27 left but missed the PAT, leaving the game at 24-20 in favor of North Surry.
An onside kick attempt was recovered by the Hounds, who just needed to get a first down to let the clock run out. The East Surry defense stepped up and kept the Greyhounds from moving the chains, and the Cardinals regained possession with 2:22 remaining.
Boaz led the Cardinals down the field, making sure to get out of bounds to stop the clock after most plays. Just when everything looked good for the visiting team, Kaleb Hunter of North Surry sacked Boaz and stripped the ball, which was recovered by the Hounds to end a phenomenal contest.
Coach Lyons called this a win three years in the making, as East Surry had been known to beat up on North in the past few meetings. Despite this win, Lyons said the goal of his team is to keep improving.
“We have to keep getting better every day,” Lyons said. “I don’t think we’ve played our best football yet. I do like where we are, though.”
North Surry (3-0) remains undefeated and will host Community School of Davidson (1-0) next week. East Surry falls to 1-2 and will host Surry Central (0-2) next week.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith