North Surry football coach Danny Lyons knows his team is hungry for a win over its long-time rival in Mount Airy.
After a crushing, but eye-opening 35-32 loss to East Surry, there might not be a better time for the Greyhounds (2-1) to snap their nine-game losing streak to the Granite Bears. Still, Lyons doesn’t want his team getting too hyped up for tonight.
“We have a ton of respect for Mount Airy, and it’s going to be another great game,” Lyons said. “But I don’t want us to get caught up with how many games we’ve lost to them and make this game any bigger than it already is. This is about Friday night, not the nine years before.”
If the Greyhounds are going to end the streak, they will need to limit special teams’ errors that were so costly against East Surry last week. Two long kick returns set the Cardinals up with great field position, and Lyons has preached the importance of forcing opponents into long drives in practice this week.
“The kicking game has to improve. We can’t play defense with our backs against the wall too many times or teams are going to punish us,” Lyons said.
North Surry’s high-octane offense continues to impress in the beginning stages of this season. The Greyhounds are averaging 37.7 points per game with quarterback Avery Smith leading the way.
Smith has 11 touchdowns this year and is just 134 yards away from becoming Surry County’s first 1,000 yard passer this season.
However, one area the Greyhound offense will look to improve on Friday will be getting off to a hot start. The offense typically explodes after halftime, but Lyons hopes to get out of the gates quickly against Mount Airy.
“We’re close, I think,” Lyons said. “The rhythm and timing in this new offense is just something that Avery has struggled with a bit in the beginning, but we’ve found it after halftime.”
Mount Airy (2-1) will try to keep its offensive groove from last week when it scored 63 points in a romp over Elkin.
The Bears’ offense was inconsistent in the first two games, but they came to life in week three behind Orion Ramey. The junior tailback notched 196 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries.
“I couldn’t be happier for Orion,” said Bear coach Kelly Holder. “Nobody’s worked as hard as he’s worked to be in this position.”
Mount Airy’s proficient ground game will be vital against North Surry. The Greyhounds can score quickly and often, so look for the Bears to try and keep North Surry’s offense off the field.
When Mount Airy does decide to throw the rock, Ian Holder will have confidence knowing he turned in his best game of the young season last week.
Holder only attempted nine passes, but he completed six of them for 157 yards and two scores. The big plays through the air were primarily out of the play-action.
“We’re not an explosive offense, but we did get better last week,” Holder said. “When we have opportunities against North, we’re going to have to take advantage because they can score in bunches.”
The lone remaining undefeated team in the area is East Surry, and the Cardinals will once again be put to the test in a matchup with the West Stokes Wildcats (3-0).
The Cardinals coach, David Diamont, believes the Wildcats have very few weaknesses. He lauded their playmakers on offense, specifically quarterback Alex Manley and running back Devan Hairston.
“(Hairston) is a big young man,” Diamont said. “We’re going to have to do what we can to contain him and make him earn his yards. (Manley) is very versatile and has a stable of great receivers to throw to.”
One thing Diamont is weary of is West Stokes’ size up front, both on offense and on defense. The coach stressed to his linemen how important it is to be both physically and mentally ready for the challenge ahead.
Those linemen will look to pave some more holes for sophomore running back Joey Ray, who had the best game of his career on Friday at North Surry.
Diamont has rolled out a more balanced offense this season, but against the Greyhounds, Ray received a steady dose of carries throughout the evening. He finished with 20 rushes for 117 yards and three touchdowns.
Ray only had 22 carries in the first two games combined.
It could be tough sledding for the prolific East Surry offense on Friday. The Cardinals have scored at least 35 points in every game this season, but West Stokes is allowing a stingy 16.3 points per game this year.
Diamont believes the Wildcat defense is so successful because they have “three of the best linebackers in the entire state.”
It will be important for his offensive line to reach the second level to create running room for Ray.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Surry Central, who is still searching for its first victory of the season. The Golden Eagles have a huge opportunity to take a positive step in the right direction on Friday night when they host Elkin, who is also 0-3.
Eagle coach Monty Southern believes his team is focused on keeping a positive mentality despite the rough start to the season. Against Elkin, he hopes the Eagles can use its ground game to open up a struggling passing attack.
Eric Ramirez will continue to carry a bulk of the workload out of the backfield for Surry Central. The junior running back has 55 carries and 290 yards on the season.
Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, Ramirez success hasn’t yet led to efficiency in the play-action game, but Southern still has faith in quarterback Chandler Johnson.
“I hate to sound like a broken record, but we’re going to continue to run the ball,” Southern said. “But it’s going to be important to get Chandler going with some play-action passes… Chandler realizes he hasn’t played well, but he still believes in himself and the coaching staff still believes in him.”
Injuries continue to be a factor for Surry Central, and Southern learned this week that Chase Boone would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
Josh Holyfield, another lineman for the Eagles, will miss Friday’s contest with an injury.
In some good news for Surry Central, safety Ryan Dockery will return to the field this week against Elkin. Southern hopes that Dockery’s arrival will help spur the Golden Eagles defense and the team to its first win.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16