If No. 3 Mount Airy had any rust from not playing in three weeks, Winston-Salem Prep is grateful they didn’t play the Granite Bears under different circumstances.
The Bears were totally unfazed by both their 20-day layoff and by having their preparation time for this week’s game cut short, scoring three touchdowns in the first 5:14 of Thursday night’s game and cruising to a 43-8 victory over the Phoenix.
Mount Airy (7-0, 2-0 Northwest 1A Conference) led 29-0 at halftime and quickly converted its first two possessions of the second half into touchdowns. The second of those, a 16-yard scamper by Malik Frost with 6:59 remaining in the third quarter, invoked the mercy rule and caused the clock to run continuously for the remainder of the contest.
Winston-Salem Prep (2-5, 1-2 NW1A) scored a late touchdown against the Bears’ second-team defense, but only the referees spared them from an even worse defeat — Ian Holder had a punt return for a touchdown in the second half and Frost returned a kickoff for one, but both were negated by the officials.
Mount Airy got right down to business against the Phoenix. Prep received the opening kickoff, and on first down from its 23-yard line, quarterback Anthony Williams dropped back to pass and was picked off by the Bears’ Donovan Greene at the 33. The sophomore returned the pick to the Phoenix 17. Two runs from Frost moved the ball to the Prep 4, and then quarterback Jackson Smith found Holder in the right flat just inside the pylon for the score. Mount Airy resorted to some trickery on the point-after, and Holder threw to Greene for two points and an 8-0 lead after just 74 seconds.
More was quickly to come.
On Prep’s first play from scrimmage following the score, they coughed up the ball and both Holder and JJ Wheeler pounced on it at the Phoenix 21-yard line. The Bears scored in just two plays, the second one a 14-yard reception by Greene. Robert Brown kicked the extra point to make it 15-0 after just 2:20 had ticked off the clock.
The visitors did a little better on their third series, managing to run three plays before being forced to punt. Or at least that was the idea. A bad snap forced Williams, who doubles as the Phoenix’ punter, to try to run with the ball. He was driven out of bounds at the 22 and Mount Airy had a short field again.
Two plays netted a first down at the 11, and then Smith called his own number and dragged two Prep defenders into the end zone on a touchdown run with 6:46 left in the opening period. Another successful point-after made it 22-0.
The Phoenix offense finally showed some signs of life on their ensuing series, and the team managed to string together multiple first downs on two series, which allowed them to possess the ball for much of the second quarter and keep the Bears from invoking an automatic mercy rule to begin the second half.
However, there was another Prep series that ended badly as the first quarter came to a close, with a badly shanked punt setting Mount Airy up in business on the Phoenix 26. Thirteen seconds into the second quarter, the Bears scored on one play when Holder went to the post and Smith found him in the end zone for a 29-0 lead.
Mount Airy had the ball to open the second half and wasted no time closing this game out. Holder returned the opening kickoff 30 yards to his 48. On first down, Smith gained 13 on a quarterback keeper. Frost gained 19 more on the next play, and Prep had to tackle him by his facemask to prevent more. The personal-foul infraction moved the ball half the distance to the goal and gave the Bears first-and-goal from the Phoenix 10. Frost took the ball to his left on the next play and beat everyone to the corner of the end zone. In just 79 seconds of the third quarter, the lead ballooned to 36-0.
The Bears’ Ryan Edwards made sure Prep didn’t have the ball for long. On first down, he sacked Edwards for a five-yard loss. On second down, he caught a Phoenix running back in the backfield for another minus-5. After an incompletion, Prep punted to Holder and he ran it back for a touchdown, but an illegal blocking foul nullified it. So Mount Airy did it the hard way. On second down from the Bears’ 49, Smith found Corbin Welch open for a 33-yard gain and a first down at the visitors’ 18. Two plays later, Frost scored again.
The only other real suspense came when the Bears’ second offense turned the ball over at the Mount Airy 12-yard line late in the third quarter. The first-team defense was still in the game for the most part, and they slammed the door in the Phoenix’ face. On first down, Edwards struck again, catching a Prep running back behind the line for a three-yard loss. On second down, Grey Tucker and Ryan Edwards stuffed a ball-carrier for a one-yard pickup. On third-and-12 with the final quarter now under way, Trey Simmons and Gabriel King tacked Raiquan Ruth for a one-yard loss. An incomplete pass on fourth down, with Edwards again flushed out of the pocket, completed the magnum opus of an outstanding evening by the Bears’ first-team defense.
Prep scored on a three-yard touchdown run by Williams against the Mount Airy reserves with 4:53 left in the game. Frost ran the ensuing kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back.
The Bears will travel to Bishop McGuinness next Friday night. The school’s Homecoming festivities, which had been originally planned for the Prep game, will instead be held in Mount Airy’s Oct. 28 home game against Walkertown.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.