WALNUT COVE — Surry Central scored 34 unanswered points to break open a tight game and defeat South Stokes 55-38 on the Sauras‘ Homecoming night.
Eric Ramirez rushed for 125 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns and Martin Palacios had 124 yards on just six carries to pace the Golden Eagles, who improved to 7-1 overall and 2-0 in Western Piedmont 2A Conference play with the victory.
Quarterback Chandler Johnson threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score just before halftime that gave the Eagles a two-possession lead. Ramirez added a back-breaking score on Central’s opening drive of the second half.
“Early in the game we were able to get the edge on them a lot,” Eagles head coach Monty Southern said. “(South Stokes) had to get a little conscious of the outside, and they start leaning that way a little bit. Then we were able to get back underneath them some, and had some success there. Chandler had a couple nice runs. Eric’s been running the ball well for us all year long.”
Central led 7-0 on a Noah Wilmoth 40-yard TD run before the Sauras made things interesting early in the second quarter. Josh Patane fielded a nice punt from Jonah Moorefield at the Eagles’ 1-yard line. On the next play, Jalen Downing and Zach Slate combined for a safety to put South on the scoreboard.
Moorefield caught a touchdown pass from QB Austin Lilly that gave the Sauras their first lead of the game 8-7 with 9:49 left in the second. After Palacios ripped off a 79-yard TD up the left sideline for the Eagles, South answered again with a little razzle-dazzle.
Michal Phillips took a third-down pitch from Lilly and tossed a 35-yard pass to Moorefield inside the red zone. On the Sauras’ next offensive play, Phillips scored on an 8-yard run — diving just inside the left pylon. Ivan Caro’s extra point gave the Sauras a 15-14 lead with 6:24 remaining until halftime.
But Central answered with a touchdown from Riley Dockery to reclaim the lead for good. South went 3-and-out, and Johnson beat the Sauras with his arm and legs on another scoring drive. Johnson’s 4-yard score made it 27-15 with 27.1 seconds left in the quarter. Lilly’s deep pass was picked off before halftime.
Ramirez scored on a 5-yard run to get Central rolling to start the third. The Eagles recovered an onside kick and cashed in when Johnson connected with Wilmoth on a 14-yard TD. Palacios added another TD on a drive that featured two 15-yard penalties on the Sauras that made it 48-15 at the 1:02 mark of the third.
“The last possession at the half, it’s 27-15. They had 21 points before we touch the ball again,” Sauras head coach Paul Hall said. “It’s hard to dig out of that against a good team. You are down by 12 and all of a sudden you are down by (25).”
Moorefield, who had 5 catches for 134 yards, caught his second TD pass of the night with 10:48 to go in the fourth. Lilly, who completed 7 of 15 passes for 127 yards, completed the two-point conversion on a pass to Slate. Lilly and Ramirez each had TD runs later in the fourth to cap the scoring.
Phillips, the Sauras’ lead tailback, had Central’s full attention. He was limited to 87 yards on 21 carries against a swarming Eagles defense determined to make South beat them through the air.
“(South) threw the ball well at times,” Southern said. “We knew (Moorefield) was really dangerous. He made some big plays for them in the passing game …
“(Phillips) was our focal point. He’s going to carry it 25 times a game. He’s a good, hard runner. I really like the way he plays. We tried to slow him down. No. 6 (Tre) Scales) came on later, and he gave them a little change of pace.”
Meanwhile, Central rushed 47 times for 266 yards. Johnson completed 5 of 12 passes for 123 yards and rushed for 40 yards out of Central’s deceptive triple option offensive attack.
The senior QB converted a 4th-and-10 with a 23-yard pass to Palacios on Central’s last scoring drive of the second. Then in the third, he completed a 20-yard pass on 3rd-and-16. Four plays later, the Eagles were in the end zone and led by 19 points.
“A little of that goes back to having a veteran team and a lot of that goes to having a veteran quarterback,” Southern said. “As a coach, you can’t be in the huddle. Somebody’s got to get everybody calm and get everybody on the same page. Chandler’s been doing a good job of that this year. Both of those plays, he knew what he wanted to do and executed.”
Central, which posted a 7-6 win against Carver in the WPC opener, is the only 2-0 team in league play. The Eagles’ only loss this season came to Mount Airy, which is undefeated and ranked in the Associated Press 1A poll.
“We set a goal to try and compete for a conference championship,” Southern said. “We took those first two steps. We’ve got North Surry, which is always a big game, no matter what the records are.”
After the loss, the Sauras fell to 2-6 overall and 0-2 in the WPC. South lost a tough 39-37 contest to Forbush in its conference opener.
“(Surry Central) has the guys who can take it to the house. (Palacios, Wilmoth, Ramirez, Johnson) … we didn’t play our assignments really good. East Wilkes ran kind of a triple option that first game and we really did good on our assignments and tackled in space …
“I think we are getting better. We’ll try to keep our focus. I don’t think it will be hard this week because we are playing West Stokes.”
The Wildcats travel to Walnut Cove Friday for a key WPC matchup. West (5-3, 1-1) beat Forbush 42-21 last week.