EAST BEND — The stage is set for Championship Friday in Toast this coming week.
North Surry came into this past Friday’s road game at Forbush needing one more victory in order to earn a shot at playing for the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference title next week, and from the first snap of the game to the final play, the Greyhounds had a strong presence in East Bend as they took a 41-7 win over Forbush.
The Hounds (9-1, 5-0 WPAC) reached the nine-win plateau for the first time since the 1999 season, a year in which many of the 25 seniors playing for this year’s North Surry team were born. This week, North Surry will host league rival West Stokes (7-2, 4-0) with a chance to win a conference championship for the first time since 2000.
“We played tough football tonight and we’re pleased to be where we’re at,” said North Surry head coach Danny Lyons. “I know West Stokes is looking forward to next Friday night, as so are we.”
The first few drives stalled for both teams before either one could make it past the 50-yard line. Forbush went three-and-out, only earning seven yards on its first drive. North Surry picked up 16 yards, 15 of which were from a flag on the Falcons. As both teams started to settle into a rhythm of stalled drives, the Greyhounds finally found momentum with three minutes left in the first quarter.
After another three-and-out series by the Falcons, the punt landed at the North Surry 18-yard line, where Ryan Ward was waiting. Ward ran down the sideline past two defenders, then cut towards the middle to beat a flock of Falcons before taking the ball into the end zone for an 82-yard punt return. The extra point was good and the Greyhounds had a 7-0 lead over Forbush.
“Ryan Ward really got us going,” said Lyons. “We ended up punting the first two times ans so did they, but we were losing field position. Elijah Odum and Nic Rodriguez had great blocks upfield and Ryan did the rest.”
Forbush seemed to have momentum on its next drive, as the Falcons had made their way down the field. Zane Johnson made his first carry of the night for a four-yard gain, followed by a 12-yard run by Derek Jayson that kept the drive going. Forbush eventually had to punt the ball away on fourth down, but as the ball was making its way across the field, it clipped the ankle of a North Surry player and the Falcons recovered the ball on North’s 30. Forbush seemed to have been given a second chance at finding the end zone, but it all came to an end at the 23-yard line as the Hounds’ Clay Shumate recovered a Forbush fumble.
North Surry turned the fumble recovery into a drive that resulted in a touchdown. Chase Swartz started the drive as he found the hands of Nick Badgett for a 15-yard gain. From there, Swartz relied on Badgett once again for another huge gain to the 34-yard line. Sammy McMillian put the Greyhounds down to the 24 with a 10-yard run, and it was easy sailing from there. Swartz put the ball in the air, and Darius Duncan came down with it for a Greyhounds touchdown. North Surry kept pushing to take a 13-0 lead over the Falcons.
“They loaded up the box against us all night,” said Lyons. “Since five offensive linemen can’t block seven, we threw the ball a little more last night. If teams are going to force us to throw the ball, we don’t mind it.”
The Hounds made that quite clear as the game moved along. Swartz and Badgett had a field day against the Forbush defense.
Seven minutes after the second touchdown, North Surry tacked on seven more points. Badgett pulled down an 83-yard pass reception to put the Greyhounds up 20-0 going into halftime. The Hound defense has yet to surrender a first-half touchdown in conference play this season.
After the half, North Surry was able to tack on 21 more points as McMillian had a eight-yard touchdown run four minutes into the third quarter, Badgett had a 61-yard touchdown reception, and Kaulin Smith had a 50-yard touchdown run. Badgett ended the game with five catches for 223 yards, while Swartz completed 12 of 20 passes for 323 yards and three scores against just one interception.
“It was good to see Nick get going,” said Lyons. “He’d been kind of quiet the past two weeks.”
The win clinched a third straight 2A state playoff berth for the Hounds, but they’re hoping for more than that this season.