Coming into the 2017 season, Mount Airy head coach Kelly Holder considered his team’s outstanding receiving corps as one of the team’s greatest strengths. He will get no argument from North Surry.
A pair of tremendous, game-breaking plays from Donavon Greene and Jeremiah Rosser set the tone for the third-ranked Granite Bears in a dominating first-half performance that staked the home team to a 35-7 halftime lead in this battle of unbeaten teams. Mount Airy went on to claim a 42-10 victory, its 11th straight win in the series dating back to 2006.
The Granite Bears (5-0) scored on six consecutive possessions after failing to scratch the first time they had the ball. North Surry got on the board early in the second quarter when Chase Swartz ran the ball in from three yards out following a 43-yard pass reception by Darius Duncan, but by that time Mount Airy had already found paydirt twice.
The key moments in the first half came before and after that Greyhound touchdown.
The Bears reached the North Surry 33-yard line on their first series before behind halted on downs thanks to a sack by the Hounds’ Elijah Odum. They were similarly going nowhere on their second series, facing third-and-21 from their own 17-yard line after two undisciplined penalties, when Greene happened.
The speedy junior went deep and two both of North’s best coverage men, Darius Duncan and Clay Shumate. Quarterback Ian Holder put the ball on the money near the Hounds’ 45-yard line and Greene did the rest, taking it to the house for an 83-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 3:53 left in the first quarter.
Mount Airy began its next series in excellent field position at the North Surry 45, and picked up a first down at the 35 by the end of the opening period. On the first play of the second quarter, Tanner Jackson hauled in a pass for 15 more, and got a 10-yard bonus when North Surry was flagged for an illegal horse collar. Johnathon Smith went around left end for the last 10 yards, sprung by a downfield block from Rosser, and it was 14-0 Bears after 25 seconds of the period.
Duncan got a measure of revenge against Greene when he hauled in a 43-yard bomb from Swartz, turning third-and-9 at the Hounds’ 39 into a first down at the Mount Airy 18. From there, North was able to complete the drive and score on Swartz’ keeper, making it 14-7 with 8:01 left in the first half.
Enter Rosser. For all that it mattered, it could have been Enter Sandman, because this game was put to bed in a hurry after what he did.
Facing third-and-6 at their own 38-yard line, the Bears ran a short pass to play to the junior wideout, and as soon as he caught the ball, three Hounds converged on him at the 42. Two of them got hands on him, but neither could wrestle the 5’10”, 195-pound speedster to the ground. Rosser broke loose, spun free, dashed for the first down and then kept on running…and running…all the way to the end zone on a 62-yard catch-and-run play worthy of any highlight reel. Robert Brown blasted the PAT for a 21-7 Bear lead with 6:04 left in the half.
North Surry’s first play of its next series looked like an apparent pick six for Holder, but the officials called it back on a rare blindside block call and forced the Bears to start from the Hounds’ 45. Smith immediately rumbled for 12, then for two, and on second-and-8 from the 31, Holder got the points by finding Grayson Corbin for his second TD pass of the game and a 28-7 lead.
Holder liked playing defense and getting interceptions so much that he made another one two plays into the next North Surry possession. This one gave the Bears more great field position, this time at North’s 42, and Mount Airy’s offense pounded the rock down to a first-and-goal inside the 10 with less than a minute to go. Holder called his own number with 43 seconds remaining in the first half, going in from three yards out.
The Greyhounds were down, but not out. They surprised Mount Airy with an onside kick to open the third quarter, with Avery Simmons pouncing on the ball at the Bears’ 48. A catch by Duncan netted the visitors a first down at the 34, but Mount Airy’s Ryan Edwards had seen enough, and sacked Swartz to put North into a fourth-and-18 that they couldn’t convert.
Following that stop, Mount Airy drive 58 yards for its sixth straight touchdown, this one coming on a 12-yard run by Smith with 5:59 left in the third.
Smith had his second straight 100-yard game for the Bears, picking up 103 yards on 13 carries.
With the outcome decided, things got chippy late in the game, and at one point late in the third quarter, the officials ordered both teams to the sidelines after offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. Emotions calmed down and the teams played the final stanza fairly quickly.
Midway through the fourth quarter, North Surry sophomore Nick Badgett hauled in two long passes to move the Hounds from their 18 to the Mount Airy 23, but things soured for the Hounds after that. A touchdown pass to Duncan was called back for holding, and then Greene intercepted a pass.
North got one more chance late in the game, and hard running by Chandler Hawks moved the Hounds inside the Mount Airy 5, where Ethan Evans hit a 22-yard field goal with just under three minutes remaining.
Mount Airy, ranked third in the state’s 1A ranks by NCPreps, fourth by the AP and fifth by MaxPreps, outgained North Surry 476-221, according to unofficial stats.
The Bears will try to make it 3-for-3 against Surry County foes when they travel to Surry Central next week. The Hounds, who still have a shot at the Western Piedmont 2A title to look forward to, begin their quest for the title next week at Atkins.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.