The second half of the season for the Granite Bears will come a week early.
Four consecutive blowouts of Northwest 1A Conference opponents culminated Friday night with the most one-sided rout of all, a 73-6 bashing of Bishop McGuinness on Senior Night. Although the state playoffs won’t begin until Nov. 10, the real postseason begins next week.
Mount Airy, the state’s second-ranked 1A team in every poll, will travel to arch-rival East Surry next Friday night for a winner-take-all showdown. To the winner will go the outright NW1A title, and a much higher playoff seed when the playoff brackets come out. The Cardinals (7-3, 4-0) kept their end of the bargain by downing South Stokes 48-0 on Friday.
“Win or lose next week, it’s going to affect your playoff seeding, and it sure is a whole lot easier going in as a 1 (seed) than it is as a five,” said Mount Airy head coach Kelly Holder. “I’m sure East Surry feels the same way.
“We want to put ourselves in position to win the conference championship every year. From there, it’s be as good as you can be. East Surry has a great program, and I promise you we will get their best shot.”
Mount Airy, which reached the 10-win milestone for the 24th time in the program’s history, improved to 10-0 overall. Friday night’s win was never in doubt. The Bears scored on the first play of the game, led 35-0 after one quarter of play and 59-6 at halftime, and added two more scores in the second half. Mount Airy has outscored the opposition 245-6 so far in conference play.
The Villains (3-7, 1-3) made a serious mistake in coverage on the Bears’ first play from scrimmage and paid dearly for it. Quarterback Ian Holder took the snap, went through his progressions and quickly discovered that Donavon Greene was in single coverage on a fly pattern down the visitors’ side of the field. Holder tossed a perfect spiral in that direction, which the junior wideout hauled in and sprinted into the end zone.
“That was one of (Ian’s) options, and I don’t know too many people who would single up Donnie, but they did,” said Coach Holder. “Ian threw a good ball and it worked out.”
Kicker Robert Brown, who would reach some milestones of his own before the game was over, made the extra point, and the Bears led 7-0 after just 10 seconds had ticked off the clock.
The game got ugly in a hurry. Ryan Edwards sacked Bishop quarterback Jake Babcock on third down of the Villains’ first series and forced a punt. Mount Airy got the ball back at its own 26-yard line and Johnathon Smith immediately bolted for more than 50 yards deep into Villain territory, but an illegal block moved the Bears back to their 28. On first-and-8, Ian Holder took the ball on a keeper and romped for 72 yards.
The next three Bishop possessions resulted in three plays and a punt. Mount Airy turned all three into touchdowns.
The first came with 7:05 left in the first, and covered 63 yards in just four plays. The last one saw Holder roll to his left and throw deep to Greene in the corner of the end zone for 35 yards and a 21-0 Bear lead. The second one covered 52 yards in three plays, the last one a 25-yard run by Smith at the 4:19 mark. Finally, Mount Airy had a 52-yard, four-play drive, this one also capped off by Smith from 21 yards out. With 1:40 left in the opening period, the Bears already led 35-0.
Greene wasn’t done tormenting the Villains. As time was running down in the opening period, he picked off a Babcock pass and returned it to the Bishop 34. That resulted in a 37-yard touchdown run by Jeremiah Rosser at the 11:09 mark of the second quarter and a 42-0 lead.
Smith romped 79 yards for a score exactly four minutes later. The Villains then mounted a drive all the way to the Mount Airy 20, but were forced to try a field goal and missed. The Bears’ second offense took over, and Quentavious McLeod had runs of 16 and 56 yards for a first-and-goal at the Villains’ 8. Armando Estrada got those yards for a 56-0 lead with 3:29 left in the half.
To the Villains’ credit, they didn’t ever stop fighting back. And it paid off when they became the first team to score on the Bears in 35 days. With 1:27 left in the quarter, Vance Jacobsen snagged a 27-yard pass from Babcock for a score. However, a ticked-off Mount Airy special teams unit blocked the point-after try.
Greene returned the ensuing kickoff 47 yards to the Bishop 28, and was generously ruled out of bounds by the official at that point. That left enough time for Brown to hit a 43-yard field goal for a 59-6 halftime lead.
The kick gave Brown 297 points for the season and tied him for third-place all time among North Carolina prep placekickers; he took the distinction all to himself in the second half. He is also third in the nation in scoring among kickers this season.
“Robert deserves all of the credit he can get, because he’s worked awfully hard for four years,” said Coach Holder. “He’s third in the country in kick-scoring, and that’s pretty special. He has a pretty good long-snapper (Corbin Robertson) and a pretty good holder (Tanner Jackson) as well. It’s a team effort, and I’m sure he’d say the same thing.”
Coach Holder wasn’t trying to run up the score in the second half, but the reserves and JV’s (the Villains don’t have a JV team this season) still managed to add two more touchdowns in the abbreviated second half.
The first came shortly after Quentin Frost picked off a pass on Bishop’s first possession of the third quarter. The Villains stopped him short of the end zone on the return, but Mount Airy lined him up at running back and he ran 11 yards to paydirt with 8:12 left in the period.
The last score came with 7:15 remaining in the game. This one came as a result of Bishop’s quarterback coming under heavy pressure from the defense. He tried to throw a pass over the middle, but Manley Stovall was on the spot and caught the ball at the Villains’ 15. He romped into the end zone for his first career touchdown, and congratulations from his teammates.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.