For the second year in a row, Black Friday means Granite Bear football at Wallace Shelton Stadium.
The state’s second-ranked 1A team kept its date in the state quarterfinals on Friday night, pummeling Polk County in a game that wasn’t remotely as close as its 42-20 final score might suggest.
Mount Airy won its 12th game for the seventh time in school history. The Bears (12-0) will host fourth-seeded Bessemer City this coming Friday. Bessemer (11-1), the Southern Piedmont 1A co-champions, came from behind to upend Swain County 26-21 in another second-round contest.
The Bears built a 28-0 halftime lead and scored on their first two possessions of the second half, taking a 42-0 lead and forcing a running clock on Ian Holder’s one-yard sneak with 8:08 left in the third quarter. Ian’s father, Mount Airy head coach Kelly Holder, chose not to take any chances and immediately pulled nearly all of his starters.
The Wolverines chose not to reciprocate, leaving their starters in for the remainder of the game and scoring three touchdowns against the Bears’ reserves, the last one with no time left on the clock after calling two time-outs in order to prolong the game. Nevertheless, Polk County’s season ended with an 8-5 record.
The Wolverines approached this game with the same gameplan used by many other Bear opponents, namely, to play ball-control offense and keep the explosive Mount Airy offense off the field as much as possible. They got off to a good start, taking the opening kickoff and running five minutes off the clock before facing fourth-and-4 at the Bears’ 40-yard line.
Ryan Edwards and Zach Smith had seen enough. They busted through the Polk line and got up close and personal with Wolverine quarterback Avery Edwards, throwing him for a loss.
The fans quickly saw why Polk wanted no part of the Mount Airy offense. On second down, Ian Holder scampered for a first down in Wolverine territory. Then Johnathon Smith took a sweep for a dozen more and a first down at the Polk 34. Two plays later, Donavon Greene went out on a post route and hauled in a pass at about the 20, then raced into the end zone with a 32-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.
It only took the Bears 36 seconds to score again.
Following the touchdown, Coach Holder decided he would try to exploit a weakness the coaching staff had spotted in Polk’s kick return team. He had kicker Robert Brown dribble an onside kick to his left, where Holder was on the spot to snag the high bounce at the Wolverines’ 42.
Smith got 33 yards on first down and then Ian Holder scrambled to his left for the other nine. With 5:06 left in the first quarter, the Bears led 14-0.
Polk went back to ground-and-pound, but were forced to punt near midfield.
Starting from its 11, Mount Airy covered 89 yards in just five plays. Three runs by Smith took the ball to the 31, and then Ian Holder gained 21, crossing into Wolverine territory at the 48. On the next play, he gave the ball to Jeremiah Rosser on a jet sweep to the left, and his teammates paved the way with excellent downfield blocking. Rosser took it to the house, and it was 21-0 with 27 seconds left in the opening period.
The Wolverines actually responded with an impressive drive of their own, and were facing third down at the Mount Airy 24 four minutes into the second quarter when they coughed the ball up on a fumble. Greene recovered it at the 7-yard line and the Bears’ offense was back in business.
Now it was Mount Airy’s turn to methodically go down the field, mounting a 14-play, 93-yard drive that ate up 7:07. Along the way, Ian Holder turned a bobbled snap into a third-down conversion, found Cole Shelton for 20 yards on a third-and-13, then connected with Greene for 15 yards on third-and-6. That got the ball to the Polk 17. From there, Smith ran for 10, then Holder picked up three more. The Wolverines held on the next two plays, but on third-and-goal, Holder’s swing pass to Smith netted the touchdown with 45 seconds left in the first half.
The Bears scored in three plays after the break, using two completions to Greene to move from their 40 to the Wolverines’ 24. On the next play, Ian Holder play-faked the Polk defense and then threw a 24-yard strike to Tanner Jackson for six.
The Wolverines unwisely went for it on fourth down from their own 35 and didn’t pick it up. Mount Airy needed just 1:49 to score its sixth and final touchdown on Ian Holder’s sneak.
The rest of the game consisted of the Wolverines trying to make their defeat more respectable with garbage-time scores against the reserves. Despite this, the Bears still outgained them 378-338.
Holder completed nine of 11 passes for 141 yards, and Smith picked up 111 yards on 12 carries.
Reach John via Twitter ar @johncate73.