WALNUT COVE — After threatening to run away with the game early, East Surry quickly found out that South Stokes is no pushover this year.
The Cardinals responded with a key fourth-quarter scoring drive to fend off the scrappy Sauras 33-21 in a nonconference matchup on Friday night.
Connor Sheets and Mitchell Edwards led a balanced attack for East, which overcame the loss of tailback Joey Ray to finish with 382 rushing yards.
With the victory, East improved to 4-2 overall. South, which lost 54-6 to the Cards a year ago, fell to 2-4.
This one was in doubt until late.
“I told our people, when we play South Stokes, we are going to be looking at a mirror,” Cardinals head coach David Diamont said. “Both teams run at each other. They are a tough group. I am really impressed with what Coach (Paul) Hall is doing over here. We are both sort of old school. It was a good, hard-hitting football game. I’m really pleased that our kids were able to respond.”
Michal Phillips, who had a monster night with with 228 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns, scored to bring the Sauras to within 26-21 early in the fourth quarter and put pressure on the Cardinals. That drive was set up when Jonah Moorefield converted a 4th-and-17 out of punt formation.
But East answered with a six-play, 80-yard drive that featured a big pass play from quarterback Trevor Hauser to Garrett Barker and some hard running from Edwards. The sophomore tailback scored from 13 yards out with 8:26 to go. South was penalized 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff and went 3-and-out. QB Austin Lilly’s third-down pass intended for Tre Scales was broken up by Logan Ray.
The Sauras never got the football back.
“They got a few more big plays than we did,” Hall said. “We were right there. We’ve got to work on getting off the field on defense. Credit to them … we had some problems stopping that fullback and running back.”
Ray’s 10-yard touchdown run capped a nine-play, 67-yard drive to open the game. Ryan Sutterby split the uprights on the extra point try and East led 7-0 with 7:44 remaining in the first quarter. The Cardinals forced the Sauras to punt on their first possession, and East struck again. Quarterback Trevor Hauser completed a 34-yard pass to Sheets down the sideline, and on the next play, Edwards burned the Sauras’ blitz with a 32-yard TD run. After Sutterby’s extra point, East led 14-0 with 1:52 to go in the first. But the Cards lost Ray to an injury on the series and he did not return.
South punted again — but the Cardinals’ next possession was a disaster.
East was hit with a 15-yard penalty after a first-down run, and two plays later, the Sauras’ Cody Hobert recovered a fumble at the Cards’ 27. South capitalized when QB Austin Lilly completed a short pass to Cody Brewster, who broke multiple tackles and spun his way inside the 5. Lilly scored on a 2-yard keeper that made it 14-7 after Ivan Caro’s kick at the 10:10 mark.
East stretched the lead to 20-7 after Edwards’ 2-yard TD. That play was set up by an 81-yard dash from Sheets, who was caught from behind by Brewster inside the 5.
But South answered right away with a 70-yard score from Phillips that made it 20-14 with 2:15 until halftime.
“The (running back) we were concerned about (Ray), he got hurt, and they put bigger ones in and ran downhill,” Hall said. “But give their kids credit, they played hard. I could see momentum flipping and flopping, but there at the end of the fourth quarter, they got it and held on to it.
“We’ve got some kids that can make plays. I never thought we were out of it.”
What the Sauras couldn’t do, was stop Ray, Sheets, Edwards, or Jose Juarez on the ground. The Cards also capitalized on their opportunities through the air.
“At times, we did some stupid stuff,” Diamont said. “We had penalties that were unnecessary, fumbled the ball. At times, we looked sloppy, but that was both ways.”
Up next for East is a Northwest 1A Conference home game against Walkertown. The Sauras open Western Piedmont 2A Conference play when they travel to East Bend to take on Forbush.