JAMESTOWN — Even in defeat, East Surry may have taken part in the Game of the Year for this area.
The Cardinals hit the road Friday night for a rare 1A vs. 4A showdown against Jamestown Ragsdale, and engaged the Tigers in a back-and-forth slugfest that featured seven lead changes before the hosts escaped with a 34-33 victory after a missed East Surry field goal with less than 20 seconds remaining.
Ragsdale (4-2 overall), a member of the Metro 4A Conference, had its hands full with the Cardinals, who led for most of the second before Tre Goode hauled in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Devan Boykin with 1:08 left in the game. This left the Cardinals down by a point after they stuffed a two-point conversion try.
Starting from its own 39-yard line, East Surry advanced to the Ragsdale 30 on pass completions of 12 yards from Trevor Hauser to A.J. Bruton and then for 19 yards to Joey Ray. With 48.4 seconds left in the game, Ragsdale’s Garrett Collins sacked Hauser for a five-yard loss. Hauser hit Austin Pardue for 14 yards to the Tigers’ 21, but had to spike the ball to stop the clock. This made it fourth-and-1 with 19.6 seconds remaining.
East Surry called on Ryan Sutterby to attempt a 38-yard field goal, right at the limit of his range. Sutterby had already made two 28-yard kicks earlier in the game, but was short from the longer distance and Ragsdale escaped with the one-point victory.
The Cardinals (3-3) had a number of chances to build a comfortable lead, and the Tigers had a few of their own.
The game began with Ray showing that he had no problems running with the big boys. The senior returned the opening kickoff to the Cardinals’ 45, and then he rumbled to the Ragsdale 40 on his first carry of the game. Nearly entirely on the legs of its star tailback, East Surry moved the ball to the Tigers’ 14-yard line before losing the ball on a bad center exchange.
However, the Cardinal defense forced Ragsdale into a quick three-and-out, and on its second series, East went from midfield to the Tigers’ 11 before Sutterby gave the visitors a 3-0 lead with 6:31 left in the opening period.
Ragsdale answered with a quick-strike drive of its own that culminated in a 23-yard touchdown run by Malachi Maness just 99 seconds later, and went in front 7-3.
Late in the first quarter, the Cardinals went back on the attack and went deep to Ray on first down from their own 45. Ragsdale was flagged for pass interference and an East first down at the hosts’ 40. Ray got the call on the ground on the next play and picked up 33 yards. Two plays later, he went around right end on a student-body right sweep and scored from six yards out to make it 10-7 with 2:17 left in the first.
The Tigers marched 76 yards the other way, on big plays by Boykin and running back Bryson Spruill, before regaining the lead at 14-10 on a 14-yard pass from Boykin to Jonah Handy just 55 seconds into the second period.
Not to be outdone, the Cardinals struck back before the happy Ragsdale fans even had time to get back into their seats. Stephen Gosnell ran the ensuing kickoff back 86 yards for a touchdown, untouched by any of the Tigers thanks to perfect downfield blocking from his teammates.
The Cardinals extended their lead after a bad Ragsdale punt gave them possession at their own 47 with four and a half minutes left in the first half. Ryan Edwards went for 28 yards on a delayed handoff, and Ray had a hard run for a first down at the Ragsdale 14 moments later. He took it to the house on the next play, and East went in front 24-14 with 2:14 left in the half.
Naturally, Boykin and his receivers weren’t backing down, and they marched back the other way in the last two minutes, scoring on a 34-yard pass to Treveyon Pratt with 19 seconds before intermission. East Surry led 24-21 at the end of a wild first half.
The Tigers made a mistake early in the second half, running a fake punt with their backup quarterback in punt formation, but the Cardinals stuffed it and got the ball at Ragsdale’s 24-yard line. This led to another 28-yard field goal for Sutterby with 7:30 left in the third.
Back came the Tigers, marching 78 yards to paydirt in just over two minutes to regain the lead at 28-27 on a seven-yard run by Spruill with 5:24 left in the quarter.
The Cardinals answered with a 71-yard scoring march of their own, featuring more hard running by Edwards and Ray. However, the Ragsdale defense caught on this time, and eventually forced East Surry into a fourth-and-6 from the Tigers’ 28. Hauser dropped back to pass and found Gosnell on a fly pattern down the visitors’ side of the field for a touchdown and a 33-28 lead. However, Ragsdale’s Niante Woods blocked Sutterby’s point-after try, and this loomed large as the game moved alone.
Gosnell intercepted Boykin near midfield on Ragsdale’s next series, but that series ended up in a fourth-and-inches situation where the Tigers stopped Hauser’s sneak short of a first down. For most of the fourth quarter, the tiring defenses held their own, each side stopping the other. With six and a half minutes left, Conner Sheets stopped Spruill on a fourth-down play at the East 17.
Ragsdale muffed a punt on that series and East got the ball back, but again couldn’t move it. They punted to Ragsdale at its 14 with 2:49 remaining. This time, the Tigers made the plays and moved 86 yards in seven plays to take a 34-33 lead after the Cardinals’ Gunnar Jones stuffed a run for two points.
East Surry completes the non-conference portion of its schedule with a 3-3 record, and has the week off next week before beginning conference play at home against Bishop McGuinness on Oct. 6.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.