KING — It took West Stokes three quarters to get going Friday night on the gridiron, but when the dust settled the Wildcats beat a solid Surry Central team 47-21 to remain unbeaten in the Western Piedmont Athletic 2A Conference.
“Surry Central is a well coached team that plays hard,” said Wildcat coach Jimmy Upchurch. “The Palacios (Martin) kid is one of the best players in our conference. He is strong, fast, and runs the ball hard. Coach Southern does a great job with those kids and gets the most out of them. I think their record is very deceiving of the team they are.”
The Wildcats jumped on the board early and led 10-0 after the first quarter. Chris Brown scored from three yards out with 5:30 left in the quarter. Caleb Peter added the extra point and then hit a 30-yard field goal with 1:24 left.
Surry Central cut into the Cats’ lead with a touchdown from Palacios, but they missed the extra point and the home team led 10-6 at the 9:27 mark of the second quarter. Quarterback Tyler Smith extended the Wildcats’ lead with 13 seconds left before the half on a seven-yard touchdown run. Peters connected on the extra point try and the home team held a 17-6 lead going into the locker room.
“Tyler continues to grow every week,” stated the Wildcats’ coach. “He is making better decisions with each game and is leading this team on the field. His passes have been more accurate, and our offense is improving every game and that starts with him.”
The Golden Eagles played keep-away from the Wildcats to start the second half, and eventually held the ball for more than eight minutes of the third quarter. On Surry Central’s first possession, they scored on a nine-play drive that covered 72 yards, and ended with Palacios’ second touchdown of the game. Ryan Martin ran in the two-point conversion and the visitors had cut the lead to 17-14 with 8:29 left in the period.
West Stokes defense stepped up late in the third period with an interception from Brown. His return set the Wildcats up with first-and-goal from the Central five-yard line. The Eagles’ defense squeezed the Cats and forced them into a field goal after the defense made a play that resulted in a 10-yard loss for West Stokes. Peters tied a school record with his second field goal of the game, pushing the lead to 20-14 for the Wildcats.
Surry Central capped off a nine-play drive that started late in the third quarter with an 18-yard dash from Ryan Martin and a 21-20 lead with 11:52 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Dustin Blevins put the Wildcats back on top for good with a 90-yard kickoff return and a 26-21 lead. The home team seemed to kick in a higher gear after the return, as the offense scored three more touchdowns on 10 offensive plays in the final period.
“We played as well as we could in the fourth quarter,” stated Upchurch. “Everything went our way and momentum shifted back to us after Dustin’s touchdown.”
The Wildcats had 329 total yards of offense, with 146 coming through the air from Smith. Brown had 80 yards rushing with a touchdown, while Smith had three rushing touchdowns. Tyler Walker and Parker Pratt led the defense with 19 and 15 tackles respectfully. Brown and Walker had interceptions, while Parker had a blocked punt that set up one of their touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
West Stokes improved to 7-2 overall and 4-0 in conference play. The Wildcats will travel to North Surry (9-1, 5-0) on Friday to determine who wins the 2017 Western Piedmont Athletic Conference title. Surry Central continues its season at home against Carver this Friday night.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.