Starting the 2016 season with a young offensive line and an inexperienced quarterback, North Surry head coach Danny Lyons has relied on his defense to give the Greyhounds a chance to win in their first two games.
So far, the plan has worked. North Surry came up three points short in its season opener last week at Ashe County, but there was nowhere to go for Elkin in Friday night’s home opener. The Hounds’ defense forced four turnovers and held the Buckin’ Elks to just one score — on a short field after a long kickoff return — and evened their record at 1-1 with a 40-6 rout.
North Surry (1-1) had three turnovers in a sloppy first half, but made enough plays to hold a 17-6 lead at intermission. After the halftime break, the Hounds needed just three snaps to score touchdowns on each of their first two possessions, and cruised to the victory from there.
“We start with the defense. Our defense is the older group, more experienced, and we expect to play good defense,” said Lyons. “Tonight, we did, even with our backs against the wall. I’m proud of all of the guys, and it was a team effort. I think we took a step forward tonight.”
The Hound defense made its bad intentions clear right from the start. Elkin went three-and-out to open the game, then got one first down before punting on its second. About half of the first quarter was gone when North Surry’s “Air Raid” offense struck for the first time.
On first down from the Hounds’ 19-yard line, quarterback Brent Crouse dropped back and found junior Darius Duncan open in single coverage, hit him in stride, and watched him beat the Elks to the end zone for the night’s first score. The 81-yard catch-and-run gave North a 7-0 lead with 6:32 to go in the opening period.
Things got a bit wacky after that. North’s defense forced another three-and-out, but then the teams took turns playing hot potato with the football. The Hounds fumbled it away to Elkin at their own 44, and then the Elks’ Beau Burgess connected with Jaylen Mayes on a 46-yard pass down to the North Surry 10-yard line. Elkin tried to run it in with Mayes on the next play, but North linebacker Avery Simmons threw him for a five-yard loss. On the next play, Andrew Smith picked off a pass to end the threat.
Crouse then made a mistake of his own, tossing it to an Elkin defender on third down and giving the visitors another chance from their own 46 with 88 seconds left in the first quarter. The Elks drove deep into North Surry territory before the Hounds slammed the door shut. Elkin appeared to have converted a 22-yard field goal, but had it called back on a penalty. The retry, from 27 yards, went wide right.
The Hounds then drove 72 yards in 10 plays and took a 10-0 lead on a 26-yard field goal by junior Izzy Garcia with 4:25 left in the half.
After another exchange of turnovers, Duncan picked off an Elkin pass and returned it to the Elks’ 19. Three plays later, Andrew Smith dashed into the end zone and it was 17-0 with 2:50 to go.
Elkin’s Brandon Laredo returned the ensuing kickoff 71 yards to the North Surry 16-yard line, and on the next play, Burgess hit Mayes with a touchdown pass that put his team within 17-6 at the break.
Despite the late score by the Elks, Lyons liked where his team was after 24 minutes of play.
“We kept giving the ball away in the second quarter, but our defense kept making the stops, and that let us keep the lead,” he said. “We had a goal-line stand at one point. We gave up a cheap one on the kickoff return that led to their score, but that was all.”
If you were an Elkin fan, you might as well have gone home during the intermission. In the second half, the other phases of the Hounds’ game caught up to the team’s defense.
Smith ran the second-half kickoff 90 yards for an apparent touchdown, only to have it called back due to a penalty. No matter, though. On first down, Sammy McMillian ran 16 yards for a first down. On the next play, Crouse hit Duncan in single coverage at the Elks’ 40, then watched his receiver break the tackle and sprint to the end zone. After just 48 seconds of the second half, the lead was 24-6.
Elkin went backwards 10 yards on its first possession and then punted. Smith took it 54 yards to the house on the next play, and the lead was up to 31-6 with 7:59 left in the third.
“Offensively, I’ve said it since day one, our offensive line is young, but when they jell, it’s going to be a thing to see,” said Lyons. “Andrew Smith ran with a purpose tonight, and Brent Crouse made some good throws in the second half.”
From that point onward, the game was all but decided and both teams just played out the string. North Surry extended its lead to 33-6 late in the third quarter on a bad punt snap by the Elks, and completed the scoring 62 seconds into the final period, when Crouse tossed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Reid Stanley. Garcia’s last PAT of the night gave him a perfect night kicking the ball and a total of eight points on the night.
“We’re going to turn it over some, we’re a high-risk, high-reward offense. We just have to know when to take our chances and when not to, and we talked with Brent about that at halftime,” said Lyons. “He did a better job of making decisions in the second half. Brent has done a good job for us for two weeks in a bad situation.”
The Greyhounds will look to keep the momentum going on Friday night, when the team travels to county rival East Surry (1-1), which won a 28-27 thriller over Starmount on Friday night to even its record at 1-1. Elkin’s schedule doesn’t get any easier, as the Buckin’ Elks travel to 2-0 Mount Airy, a 21-7 victor over West Stokes.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.