Adjustments, challenges coming in week two

By Jackson Fuller -

Jackson Smith (10) looks for some running room in a Mount Airy football game last season.

Jackson Fuller | The News

Chandler Johnson (3) steps up in the pocket to avoid defenders in a Surry Central football game last season.

Jackson Fuller | The News

Opening week is in the rear-view mirror, and all four local football teams are looking to build off their first action in the 2016 season.

Surry Central and Mount Airy are coming off convincing wins and each trying to earn their second win of the season against teams that experienced huge success last season.

East Surry and North Surry come into the second week of the year still searching for their first victory. The Greyhounds lost a tight contest last week while the Cardinals hope to shake off a disappointing blowout against a local rival.

Below are previews for all four local games this Friday.

Mount Airy (1-0) at West Stokes (1-0)

The Granite Bears unleashed an explosive offense in their season-opening 42-18 win over Starmount, but Mount Airy coach Kelly Holder still wants his team to show steady improvement against West Stokes on Friday.

“We want our offense to be a little bit more efficient,” Holder said. “We had some big plays that helped us score 42 points, but we also want to hold on to the ball a little longer and string together some longer drives.”

Last season, Mount Airy thrived in this category against West Stokes. The Bears ran nearly twice as many plays as the Wildcats on offense, but came up short in a 27-20 defeat.

West Stokes lost a hefty group of seniors to graduation, but looks to be on track for another successful season. The Wildcats opened their season with 35-12 win over Central Davidson. New starting quarterback Reid Fulk tossed three touchdowns to former East Surry Cardinal Charlie Freeman, and running back Devan Hairston scored two touchdowns in the win.

However, turnovers prevented the Wildcats from scoring more, and Mount Airy forced three takeaways in its opening win.

“We had some turnovers that really gave us some life last week. Hopefully this is a trend we can continue against West Stokes,” Holder said.

Mount Airy’s Jeremiah Rosser and Ian Holder each recorded interceptions, while Corbin Welch recovered a fumble thanks to intense pressure from defensive linemen Gabriel King, JJ Wheeler and Ryan Edwards.

When Mount Airy’s offense comes on to the field, quarterback Jackson Smith will try to get the ball into the hands of his weapons like Holder, Rosser, Donovan Green and Johnathan Smith.

Smith, a freshman running back, started last week due to an ankle injury suffered by Malik Frost and rushed for 99 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. Coach Holder admits that Frost is improving, but isn’t quite 100 percent yet and Smith could be in line for another big workload against West Stokes.

Elkin (0-1) at North Surry (0-1)

A slow start against Ashe County doomed the Greyhounds last week. North Surry gave up 15 points in the first quarter and didn’t gain a positive yard until about two minutes remained in the period before eventually dropping a tight 22-19 decision.

As the Hounds now turn to Elkin, a fast start has been the theme of practice this week.

“The message this week is don’t take the first blow, deliver the first blow,” North Surry coach Danny Lyons said. “It’s hard when you get yourself in a hole against a quality team like Ashe.”

North Surry will look to enter the win column in its home opener against the Elks on Friday night. The Greyhounds dominated Elkin last season with a 55-19 win as Avery Smith passed for 319 yards and five touchdowns.

Smith will be unavailable for the second consecutive game and backup Brent Crouse will get the call behind center once again. Coach Lyons was impressed with Crouse, who tossed a touchdown pass to Casey Hull, and believes he could improve against Elkin if the Greyhounds’ offensive line plays a little bit better.

“When that group jells, we are going to have a very formidable offense,” Lyons said.

Elkin fell 27-6 to Forbush in the opening week, but Coach Lyons believes that score was misleading of how close the two teams were. North Surry is going to have to worry about Jaylen Mayes, a slot receiver with a ton of speed, and dual-threat quarterback Beau Burgess.

Burgess could be a threat against the Greyhounds. Coach Lyons admits the biggest trouble for North Surry’s defense last week was dealing with Ashe County quarterback Collin Ellis when he escaped the pocket. Otherwise, the Greyhounds forced the preseason Mountain Valley Player of the Year into trouble with six interceptions.

The Greyhounds focus against Elkin will be improving their own weaknesses while maintaining the strengths displayed in the first game of the year.

“This early in the year, you really have to focus on yourself,” Lyons said. “Let’s clean up what we do, and we’ll worry about Elkin when we take care of that.”

John Cate will be covering this game for The News. Follow him on twitter @johncate73.

Surry Central (1-0) at East Wilkes (1-0)

The Golden Eagles started 2016 with a bang after defeating county-rival and defending Northwest Champions East Surry 34-14 in week one, and now Surry Central shifts its attention to another Cardinal team that experienced a stellar 2015.

East Wilkes went 13-1 last year and made it to the third round of the NCHSAA 1AA playoffs, but the Cardinals got off to a shaky start this season with a 15-6 win over South Stokes after entering the game as huge favorites.

Surry Central and East Wilkes met last year and the Golden Eagles dropped a 48-14 decision to the Cardinals. Golden Eagles coach Monty Southern is hopeful that his team stays hungry after the opening win over the rivals from Pilot Mountain. Southern wants his team hungry to win, and hungry to improve each week.

“If you look at every team in the state of North Carolina, half of them are undefeated,” Coach Southern said. “If we come out this week and we’re flat, or we don’t execute, the first win won’t mean a whole lot.”

After giving up 14 points to East Surry, the Golden Eagles now prepare for an East Wilkes team that made some big plays, but didn’t consistently find the end zone against South Stokes.

Bryce Vestal is the Cardinals quarterback and earned some significant playing time last season stepping in midway through the year due to an injury. Vestal has weapons such as Jayveon Ross and Devon Couch.

Surry Central’s defensive line was the most impressive unit against East Surry last week, and Coach Southern said Kaleb Dunn, David Pena and Chase Boone could be difference-makers again against East Wilkes.

Offensively, Southern hopes to continue to see progression from quarterback Chandler Johnson, who went 5-9 for 150 yards and one touchdown. Playmakers like Martin Palacios, Noah Wilmoth and Eric Ramirez have more room to flourish when Johnson is on target in the passing game.

“He was on point the other night,” Southern said. “When he’s seeing the field like he was on Friday night, it makes us a ton better. We have some weapons, and he did a great job getting the ball in their hands.”

East Surry (0-1) at Starmount (0-1)

Cardinals coach David Diamont believes his team’s opening 34-14 loss to Surry Central served as a wake-up call to a young, but talented roster still looking to find its footing.

The East Surry coach knows his team will need to make adjustments with a 1A battle against Starmount looming this Friday, and he’s been impressed with the Cardinals’ work since falling to the Eagles.

“We’ve had a great week of practice so far. The energy has been there and I think we know that we have a lot to work on, and the kids have been getting after it,” Diamont said.

The Cardinals’ opponent on Friday will also be looking for its first win after a disappointing loss to start the year. Starmount struggled on both sides of the ball in a 42-18 loss to Mount Airy last week, and Coach Diamont fully expects the Rams to make positive adjustments in the buildup to Friday.

“I know Coach (Scott) Johnson wasn’t happy with his team’s performance either, and he’s going to be making sure he has the right people in the right places and make sure to correct some mistakes,” Diamont said.

The Rams’ offense out of the Wing-T formation loves to run the ball from all sorts of positions and angles. Led by Brenden Eads and Peyton Mullins, six different players registered a carry for Starmount against Mount Airy, but the Granite Bears’ defensive line was overpowering and kept the ground-and-pound attack in check.

East Surry will need defensive linemen Luis Suarez, Russell Varner and Logan Moore to create similar havoc in the Starmount backfield, but the Cardinals also believe having intelligent play in the secondary and linebacker spots will be crucial to their success.

“We’ve got to be disciplined,” Diamont said. “We’ve got to play our assignment, and we learned that the hard way last week. We’ve got another week to work on these assignments and try to play with a mix of discipline and an aggressive mentality.”

Offensively, the Cardinals hope to be a little more consistent in the run game and minimize their penalties. Running backs Joey Ray and Mitchell Edwards combined for 119 yards on 18 carries, but 95 of those yards came on just two rushing attempts.

Jackson Fuller will be covering this game for The News. Follow him on twitter @jacksonfuller16.

Jackson Smith (10) looks for some running room in a Mount Airy football game last season. Smith (10) looks for some running room in a Mount Airy football game last season. Jackson Fuller | The News

Chandler Johnson (3) steps up in the pocket to avoid defenders in a Surry Central football game last season. Johnson (3) steps up in the pocket to avoid defenders in a Surry Central football game last season. Jackson Fuller | The News

By Jackson Fuller

Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16

Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16

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