The regular season has wrapped up and teams across the state are preparing to make a run at the state championship. Surry County will have two representatives in the 1AA division, Mount Airy and East Surry, and one, North Surry, in 2AA.
With the first round taking place Friday, we take a look at each team’s pursuit of a ring and their journey in the 2017 season.
MOUNT AIRY GRANITE BEARS
Before defeating East Surry to complete their perfect regular season, Mount Airy broke through a banner that read “#RINGchasin.” At 11-0 and the highest-seeded team in the 1AA West, the Bears are closer than ever to achieving that goal.
MaxPreps has the Bears ranked second among 1AA teams. The only team above Mount Airy is Tarboro (11-0), the only other undefeated team in the division. With Tarboro in the East, the only situation in which these teams would meet would be in the championship game.
Mount Airy will have an extra week of rest before hosting the winner of Polk County (7-4) and North Rowan (8-3). With only 24 teams in the 1AA division, three wins will put the Bears in the state championship.
Keep an eye out for more information on Mount Airy football before their first playoff match-up.
EAST SURRY CARDINALS
East Surry’s road to the state championship is paved with rematches. The seventh seeded Cards (7-4) face-off with 10th seed Starmount (6-5) in the first round. East Surry earned its first win of the season against the Starmount Rams back in August, by a score of 39-20.
The Cards have a different look than the beginning of the season, notably under center. Jefferson Boaz started the season at QB, throwing for 144 yards and zero interceptions in the first two games of the season.
An injury to Boaz limited the sophomore to 250 passing yards in the remaining nine contests. Boaz was replaced by sophomore wide receiver Stephen Gosnell. The shift to Gosnell transitioned the Cardinals to more of a ground-based offense.
Before moving to quarterback, Gosnell totaled five rushing yards in four games. In East Surry’s last seven games, Gosnell became the second-leading rusher for his team. Gosnell now has 571 rushing yards and eight touchdowns to his name.
Despite the changes, one constant for East Surry has been running back Joey Ray. Ray has an astounding 1,121 rushing yards on 165 carries, despite missing time to injury during the season.
Starmount struggled early in the season, losing three straight contests to start the season. Each loss came at the hand of a team now in the playoffs (Mount Airy, East Surry, and West Stokes).
The Rams turned their season around with a 20-0 win versus Forbush. An 0-3 start was turned into a final record of 6-5, including a 5-2 record in the Mountain Valley 1A/2A Conference. The Rams finished third in their conference behind Wilkes Central and East Wilkes.
Speaking of the East Wilkes Cardinals, they will be the opponent of East Surry if Surry defeats Starmount. East Wilkes is the second ranked team in the West and has a first round bye.
The battle of the Cardinals took place on August 18 as the season opener for both teams, a week before East Surry faced Starmount the first time. East Wilkes won the first contest between the two, 36-20.
East Wilkes started the season 9-0 and rated as high as third in the MaxPreps 1A rankings. However, East Wilkes ended the season with back-to-back losses to Elkin and Wilkes Central. They are currently ranked fifth, and East Surry has risen to No. 8.
NORTH SURRY GREYHOUNDS
The lone Surry County representative in 2AA is North Surry. The Greyhounds are coming off their best season in well over a decade, touting a 10-1 record. The Hounds’ sole loss this season came at the hands of Mount Airy.
North Surry’s 6-0 record was the best in the Western Piedmont Conference and enough for a seven seed in the playoffs. The Greyhounds will host the Patton Panthers (8-3) in the first round.
Patton finished second in the Northwestern Foothills Conference behind only Hibriten (11-0), a potential second round opponent for the winner of North Surry-Patton.
The Panthers have a run-first offense, only completing 13 passes all season. With very few options in the air, Patton uses two seniors in the backfield to dominate opponents. Ty Causby and William Brawley each have surpassed the 1,000-yard mark this season, Brawley in only six games. The duo contributes to the Panthers’ 366.2 rushing yards per game.
North Surry’s two-headed monster of Ryan Smith and Sammy McMillian has been a pivotal part of the Greyhounds success. The two leading rushers are a large part of the Hounds’ 191 rushing yards per game, with McMillian’s 924 yards enough for second in the conference.
In addition to the rushing game, North Surry has a lot of success in the air. QB Chase Swartz has played all 11 games for the Hounds and has a quarterback rating of 116.9. Swartz has thrown for 1,691 yards and 15 touchdowns with six interceptions this season.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith