Right now, one Mount Airy game is pretty much the same as the next.
The state’s second-ranked 1A team followed up blowout wins of 59-0 and 56-0 with a similar performance, routing visiting Winston-Salem Prep 57-0 for its ninth victory of the season on Friday night.
The Granite Bears (9-0, 3-0 Northwest 1A Conference) reached the 40-point threshold for the mercy rule by early in the second quarter, led 50-0 at halftime, and played the entire second half with a running clock. The Mount Airy defense held the Phoenix (1-7, 0-3) to just 24 yards of total offense, and for the second time in three games, not only pitched a shutout, but also outscored the other team’s offense.
It was clear very early on that this game would be no more of a contest than the Bears’ first two conference games. Prep opened the game at its 16-yard line, lost five yards in three plays, then hit a 50-yard punt to make Mount Airy start from its own 39. Ian Holder immediately hit Tanner Jackson for a 19-yard gain into Phoenix territory. Two more runs yielded another first down at the Prep 25, and then on third-and-6 from the 21, Holder got into the clear on a quarterback keeper and scored with 6:46 left in the opening quarter. The Bears went for two and Clay Taylor hauled in a pass from Holder to make it 8-0.
The defense forced another three-and-out, and on first down of the Bears’ second series, Holder threw a swing pass to Cole Shelton for a 28-yard gain before he was ruled to have fumbled at the Prep 13. Mount Airy protested the call, but it stood. Unfortunately for the visitors, that was about the last resistance they offered to the Bears for the remainder of the first half.
The Phoenix offense actually managed a first down following the turnover, but then pushed their luck and went for it on a fourth-and-1 play. The Mount Airy defense stuffed them even though Prep tried to cheat by pushing the pile forward. The Bears declined the unnecessary penalty and took over at the 32. Johnathon Smith picked up 22 yards on first down before Donavon Greene drew a pass-interference penalty. This one was accepted, and then Smith picked up the last five yards to make it 15-0 at the 2:53 mark of the opening period.
Greene must have been displeased at having been interfered with. He made his displeasure known after the Bears again forced Prep to punt after three plays. He blocked the punt, which rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety and a 17-0 lead. This forced the Phoenix to make a free kick, which Smith returned 18 yards into Prep territory at the 46. He got the call on first down and rumbled to the 35, and then Holder went looking for Greene again. This time, there was no stopping him, as he hauled in a short pass, broke two tackles and took it to the house. With 1:38 left in the first, the score ballooned to 24-0.
Mount Airy’s defense was just getting started when it came to making life miserable for Phoenix quarterback Chaz Gwyn and his teammates. After Ryan Edwards flung down a Prep running back for a loss of five, Quentin Frost chased Gwyn into the end zone before sacking him at the 1-yard line as the quarter ended.
On the first play of the second quarter, Gwyn unwisely tried to pass from his own end zone. Edwards got him, and it was 26-0.
The Bears started at the Phoenix 27 after the free kick. Jackson hauled in a pass for a gain of 14, and then Smith got the rest on the next play for a 33-0 lead.
Mount Airy kept pouring it on, on both sides of the ball. The Bears let Gwyn get a pass off on Prep’s next series, but Holder intercepted it and ran it back 36 yards to the visitors’ 34. Two plays later, Smith scored again, and it was already 40-0 with 9:24 left in the first half. The Bears had scored 32 points in a span of just 5:29.
The Phoenix punted on fourth-and-37 to end their next possession, but got off an excellent punt down to the Mount Airy 38. All that meant is that Holder had a little farther to run when he took the ball on a first-down keeper and scored, thanks to some fancy footwork around the Prep 20, when the Phoenix defense nearly forced him out of bounds.
Robert Brown was given an opportunity to kick a 20-yard field goal with 8.4 seconds left in the second quarter after the Bears’ second offense marched 65 yards in the final minutes before intermission. Mount Airy, after scoring 49 in the first half of its last two games, made it an even 50 this week.
The Bears’ second offense played the whole second half, adding one more score when Armando Estrada went 28 yards on a quarterback keeper in the final period.
Prep opened one series in the third quarter on the Mount Airy 23-yard line, but the Bears’ reserves not only preserved the shutout, but also forced the Phoenix, still with its starters in the game, back to near midfield by the end of the series.
The Bears racked up 331 yards of total offense in remaining undefeated this season.
Mount Airy will try to make it four straight shutouts next Friday night, when the Bears celebrate Senior Night against Bishop McGuinness (3-6, 1-2), an 11-7 loser to South Stokes this week. A victory in that game will likely set up yet another showdown for the Northwest Conference title at East Surry in the regular-season finale.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.