DOBSON — Surry Central’s defense racked up eight turnovers to power a 14-12 win over Salisbury on Homecoming night.
The Golden Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead by forcing five first-half turnovers. Then came three more in the second half. Final tally: two interceptions, five fumbles recovered and a turnover on downs in the closing seconds of the game.
Even though the visiting Hornets scored two touchdowns, both came on long plays by Isaac Baker. The rest of the night, the defense put a stop to everything Salisbury tried.
Defensive coordinator Mark Snow praised his unit.
“Every defensive player played really well. We had a goal tonight of having a party on the ball,” said Snow. “We made an effort to get to the football, put 11 hats on the football.”
As for lifting the team, Snow said, “It’s a team effort – sometimes the offense has to carry us.”
The game began with a turnover, however this one came from Surry Central.
After picking up a first down at their own 38-yard line, the Eagles lost the ball at the 39, but the defense held. After three running plays, Salisbury had lost four yards.
A short punt gave Central the ball on the 24-yard line.
Eric Ramirez ran for five yards, with another five for a facemask penalty. He then went 19 yards for a second first down to the Salisbury 47-yard line.
Chandler Johnson found Noah Wilmoth over the middle, then the receiver streaked to the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown with 5:15 left in the first quarter. A Martin Palacios kick made it 7-0.
On the next drive, Sailsbury quarterback Griffin Myers tried a backward pass to the right flat, but the ball came loose for a fumble, not an incompletion. Chase Moseley fell on the ball at the 28-yard line.
The offense couldn’t score, turning the ball over on downs, but the Hornets were backed up inside their own 20.
Myers tried a pass, but Dylan Mitchell picked it off at the 15-yard line and turned it into a pick six for a 14-0 lead with 2:28 left in the first quarter.
On the next few drives, the offenses went backward as much as forward before Salisbury took over at its 30-yard line.
After a 3-yard run, Myers fed Terrell Baker, who broke free of two defenders in the middle of the field and sprinted all the way to the end zone for a 67-yard TD with 8:05 left in the half. The extra-point kick wasn’t even close, putting the score at 14-6, where it would stay until the half.
After a lengthy halftime show to honor the homecoming court, Salisbury got the ball first and put together a good drive.
The Hornets marched down the field, but the Eagles reached in and ripped the ball out for a fumble at the 19-yard line.
The Eagles moved the ball all the way across midfield before stalling, changing the field position battle.
Punter Jed Kidd would have pinned Salisbury at the 13-yard line, but a tackler didn’t see the fair catch signal and made a tackle, prompting a 15-yard penalty.
Still, the defense came through again with a three-and-out.
A penalty and a sack had Central backed up to third-and-20, but a deep ball up the right side was simultaneously caught by Kidd and a defender. They fell to the ground with four hands on the ball, and the offense was awarded a catch at the 30-yard line.
The drive stalled, but again, Central had the Hornets backed up.
Jake Whitaker made an interception off a deflection to give the Eagles the ball back.
On a quarterback keeper, Chandler Johnson reached the red zone before forward momentum was stopped. The whistle didn’t blow, then the ball came out for a fumble.
Earlier in the game, Coach Monty Southern had been arguing with the referees over the lateness of whistles. Ramirez had been driven back six yards and then tackled before the whistle blew, and Southern told them he was worried about player safety.
The questionable turnover gave the Hornets the ball, and Baker broke free for a 74-yard touchdown to make it 14-12 with 5:54 left in the game.
“In the Wilkes Central game, we had to stop a two-point conversion to win the game,” recalled Southern. “This one came earlier, but we knew, ‘If they get this one right here, they’re getting all the momentum.’ It was a big play. Our composure held. It was tight.”
Martin Palacios, a junior three-year starter, made the tackle on a short pass to the right side. The receiver’s knee touched down at the 1-yard line before he could stretch the ball over the plane.
The Eagles ran more than three minutes off the clock before pinning the Hornets at the 11 on another good punt from Kidd with 1:39 left. The Hornets couldn’t move the ball and turned it over on downs.
“They kept us on edge to say the least,” said Southern.
As for the offense’s lack of scoring in the second half, he said, “They are fast. Noah (Wilmoth) is a really good edge runner. We tried to do that, but didn’t have a lot of success.”
He thought Salisbury had a good game plan for his offense.
Still, the Eagles improve to 5-1 going into conference play and avenged a loss last year in the regular season and a playoff loss from 2014.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.