All season long, Mount Airy has lived by the big play. And while head coach Kelly Holder certainly didn’t mind all the touchdowns, he wanted to see some sustained drives out of the Granite Bears.
He got what he wanted on Friday night. Mount Airy relied heavily on its ground attack and a bone-crushing defense in building a 31-0 halftime lead and cruising to a 38-14 victory over Eden Morehead at Wallace Shelton Stadium.
The Bears (4-0 overall) scored on five of their first six possessions of the game, missing out only on a turnover. Four touchdown drives were followed by senior placekicker Robert Brown’s fourth field goal of the season, this one from 40 yards out with 2:21 left before the break.
“I thought we played as well in the first half as we’ve played all year,” said Holder. “Not because we were making any big plays; we’ve been a big-play team all year and that has scared me. We were able run the football tonight, and we’ve gotten better at that.”
When the Bears’ offensive line wasn’t opening holes for sophomore running back Johnathon Smith, the Mount Airy defense did not allow a first down until the second quarter, held the Panthers to 16 yards of total offense in the first half, and staked the team to a 38-0 lead in the third quarter before Holder began subbing.
Morehead (2-2), out of the Mid-State 3A Conference, scored twice in the fourth quarter, on a two-yard run by Duron King with 8:18 remaining, and then again on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Shy Lampkin to Brad Bonds with 2:14 to play.
Perhaps the Panthers’ best chance to hang with the state’s third-ranked 1A team went by the boards in the first 15 seconds of the contest. On a third down play, Bonds got a step on his defender in single coverage, but Lampkin’s pass was a little too long at the Mount Airy 40-yard line. Morehead had to punt, and a shank set up the Bears in business on the Panthers’ 35.
It only took Mount Airy six plays to cover the distance. After a series of runs got the Bears close, Ian Holder tossed a pass to Donavon Greene for a touchdown with 9:18 left in the opening period.
Morehead went three-and-out on its next series, again leaving their hosts with excellent field position on the Panthers’ side of the field. Two straight runs by Smith chewed up 26 yards and gave Mount Airy a first down at the 16. After Holder called his own number on a run to the 5, Smith took it the rest of the way. Robert Brown’s PAT made it 14-0 with 6:08 left in the first.
Holder intercepted a Morehead pass on their next series and the Bears ran the ball six times in a row, moving from their 40 to the Panthers’ 16 before Holder connected with Greene for 16 yards and a score with 28 seconds remaining in the opening period.
Mount Airy scored twice more in the second quarter. The Bears went 65 yards in five plays to score on Holder’s nine-yard run with 5:59 left in the first half, and then Robert Brown hit a 40-yard field goal with 2:21 left before the break.
Smith ran for 109 yards in the first half, nearly doubling the 113 he’d had in the team’s first three contests.
“We got Johnny going tonight, and Johnny ran the ball really well tonight, I was so proud of him.” said Holder. “We’re going to take what you give us and go from that. Johnny did a good job of taking advantage of what they were giving us.”
Mount Airy got the ball first to open the second half and moved the ball 67 yards in just 93 seconds. Smith got the last 30 on a romp to the end zone for a 38-0 lead.
The Panthers didn’t cross midfield until late in the third quarter, when they executed a fake punt and Bonds caught a pass for a first down at the Bears’ 42. From there, they were able to drive for a touchdown on a short run by King. Lampkin threw to Isaiah Smith for a two-point conversion.
After a Mount Airy turnover, Bonds had two more big plays on Morehead’s second scoring drive, making two long receptions to give the Panthers a first-and-goal at the 8 before snagging a TD pass on third down.
The Bears will be back in action next Friday night, when they host county rival North Surry (4-0) in a battle of unbeaten teams.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.