OAKBORO — Any North Surry football fan who made the trip down to West Stanly on Friday night got everything they could have hoped for in return for braving the rainy weather.
The Greyhounds turned in what head coach Danny Lyons described as a “great team win” in holding off the Colts for a 13-7 victory in conditions more suited to storm chasers than football players.
With just seconds remaining in the game, West Stanly (2-3) received a punt from North Surry’s Avery Smith, and their return man appeared to have a chance to make something happen on the play. However, Greyhound senior Luke Mauldin wasn’t having any of it. He closed on the returner, managed to strip the ball loose, and teammate Zack Akers scooped it up. According to Lyons, he might have been able to return it for a touchdown, but elected not to risk fumbling a wet ball back to the Colts. He successfully ran the clock out instead.
“It was a nasty game,” the coach said. “We had rain coming down sideways at times. It was hard to get anything going.”
North Surry received the opening kickoff and did something with it before the conditions on the field went from bad to worse. The Greyhounds drove down the field and scored on a 10-yard quarterback keeper by Smith with eight minutes left in the first quarter. Izzy Garcia split the uprights on the point-after to give his team a 7-0 lead.
It remained that way until North Surry made its only serious mistake of the night about two minutes into the second quarter. The Greyhounds mishandled a punt and turned the ball over to West Stanly deep in their own territory. With nine minutes left in the first half, the Colts’ star tailback Mailk Jackson bulled his way into the end zone from five yards out, tying the game.
That was the only gift that the hosts got on this evening, though. Jackson, a junior who came in averaging more than 150 yards a game and more than seven yards per carry, found rough sledding against a determined Greyhound front seven. West Stanly entered the game averaging 297 yards per game, and didn’t come close to that on Friday.
“I can’t say enough about how our defense played tonight,” said Lyons. “They may have gotten 150 yards tonight, and Jackson got maybe a hundred.”
A punt forced by the North Surry defense helped produce the victory. With five minutes left in the first half, the Colts kicked the ball deep into the Greyhound end of the field, right into the arms of senior Colton Acord. Acord managed to keep his footing and elude all 11 West Stanly coverage men, racing 90 yards for a touchdown and putting his team back on top, 13-7.
The teams spent the whole second half slugging it out on the muddy field. North Surry relied on its defense throughout most of the third quarter.
“They spent most of the third on our side of the field,” Lyons said. “Our defense had to play with its backs to the wall, but we kept them out.”
Late in the quarter, the Greyhounds finally managed to flip the field, and kept the ball on the Colts’ side for much of the fourth quarter.
In the final minutes of the game, the hosts managed a last-gasp drive that tested the North Surry defense one final time. The Greyhounds forced them into a fourth-and-5 situation, but West Stanly connected on a pass that gave them a first down at the North Surry 20-yard line. From there, the Hounds said ‘no more,’ and stuffed the Colts on four consecutive plays to regain possession.
They nearly managed to run the clock out, but were forced to punt with just 17 seconds remaining, setting the stage for Mauldin and Akers’ final heroics.
“I’m tickled to death to be 4-2 at this point in the season,” said Lyons, whose team has this coming Friday off before starting Western Piedmont Athletic Conference action on Oct. 9 at West Stokes.
Reach John on Twitter at @johncate73.