“To hate like this is to be happy forever.”
The title of Will Blythe’s 2007 book on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry fully encapsulates the passion and competitiveness of conference foes. The yearning to defeat a rival brings out the best of both teams. Enter Mount Airy and East Surry.
The Bears and Cardinals have never needed extra motivation to defeat the other in a rivalry dating back to 1963. But much like years past, the final game of the season between the two will determine the winner of the Northwest 1A Athletic Conference.
HOW DID WE GET HERE
Mount Airy will enter hostile territory riding a wave of momentum, boasting a perfect 10-0 record, 4-0 in conference play. The Bears are currently ranked third in the state’s 1A division by MaxPreps.
Not far behind are the Cardinals of East Surry. East sits at 7-3 and are also 4-0 in the NW1A. The Cards are ranked 10th in their division by MaxPreps. East Surry has the third highest strength of schedule in the 1A top 10. Mount Airy has the seventh-highest strength of schedule
The two shared eight common opponents during the regular season. In addition to conference counterparts, in which both East Surry and Mount Airy went 4-0, the teams played Starmount, Surry Central, West Stokes, and North Surry.
Mount Airy defeated all four mutual non-conference opponents, with East Surry surrendering a four-point loss to North Surry. East Surry’s two additional losses came at the hands of East Wilkes (36-20) and 4A Ragsdale (34-33), both of whom are playing for a conference title tonight.
One trend will continue no matter which team wins. For the sixth year in a row, either Mount Airy or East Surry will have won the conference championship. The Cardinals won the distinction in 2014 and 2015, the Bears in 2012 and 2013, and the teams shared the championship, along with Walkertown, in 2016.
The all-time record in this rivalry favors Mount Airy, 35-17.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Mount Airy’s offense has been nearly unstoppable this season. The Granite Bears have only been held to fewer than 35 points once this season. The Bears have scored 476 points this season, scoring 56+ points in each conference match-up. This includes a 73-point game against Bishop McGuinness in the Bears’ most recent contest.
East Surry isn’t too far behind in the scoring category, with 411 points this season. The Cards have scored at least 48 points or more in each conference game, with a season-high 63 at North Stokes.
The Bears offense is led by quarterback Ian Holder. Ian leads the team in passing yards and total yards per game. Ian Holder’s 2,029 all-purpose yards consist of 1,391 passing, 621 rushing, and 17 receiving.
Ian Holder is also second on the team in rushing yards, behind only Johnathon Smith, with 965 yards and 20 TDs. Smith is Mount Airy’s leading scorer, averaging two touchdowns per contest.
The duo of Joey Ray and Stephen Gosnell account for much of East Surry’s offense. Originally a wide receiver, Gosnell took over QB duties following an injury to Jefferson Boaz. Joey Ray did sit a few games in the season due to injury, but had 84 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his return against South Stokes. Ray has 804 yards and eight touchdowns on the season.
Mount Airy has a distinct advantage in the air, with QB Ian Holder averaging more than 130 passing yards per game. Boaz leads the Cardinals with 312 passing yards and 5 TDs.
On the defensive front, Mount Airy has only allowed more than 14 points once this season (20, vs. West Stokes). East Surry gave up at least 20 points in each of its first six games. In the four games since, the Cardinals have only surrendered 20 points total. Both teams shut out three conference opponents and defeated the fourth by a sizable margin.
When the rivalry began in 1963, current East Surry coach David Diamont was a senior for East Surry. Diamont (289-151) is 14-19 against Mount Airy in his career, 11-9 since returning to East in 1999. He also served a stint as the Bears’ head coach earlier in the 1990’s.
Mount Airy coach Kelly Holder (214-84) got his start with the Bears in 1999 following four years with Surry Central. Coach Holder is 9-11 against East Surry, including a seven-game winning streak from 2007-2013.
The 53rd meeting between these rivals takes place Friday, November 3 at East Surry High School. Mount Airy not only looks to win the conference, but to defeat East Surry back-to-back for the first time since 2013.
On an individual level, Mount Airy’s Johnathon Smith (965) and East Surry’s Joey Ray (804) have an opportunity to reach 1,000 rushing yards in Friday’s game.
Mount Airy kicker Robert Brown has made 54 consecutive PATs this year for Mount Airy, the eighth longest such streak in NCHSAA history. Brown is also fourth in career points and career extra in NCHSAA history.
Information and statistics in this article were provided by Mt. Airy Bears Football Historian Doug “Daddy Doug” McDaniel, Mount Airy Class of 1973.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith