PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry fell behind 7-0 in the second quarter, but took control after that for a 20-7 win over West Iredell Friday.
In the season opener neither offense could move the ball well in the first quarter.
R.J. Lawson stopped one potential score early in the second quarter with an interception in the end zone. That would be the first of three picks on the night.
Chase Brewster made a pick at his own 23-yard line in the third quarter, and Jeremy Gilley sealed the victory with an interception with less than five minutes to play.
“I was absolutely tickled,” said Coach David Diamont. “No one thought we stood a chance.”
“I think our kids were elated,” he added. “They worked extremely hard in the offseason.”
The players and fans alike were cheering hard in the final seconds.
“These kids didn’t even want to leave the parking lot an hour after the game,” he said. “Very good turnout, we have a good group of folks here.”
The Cardinals were shorthanded on the defensive line with all-conference performers Andrew Millsaps and Christian Shinault on the sidelines.
One broke training rules and the other had a rib injury, Diamont said.
Despite that, the line not only shut down the running game most of the night, but senior co-captain Jake Beeson broke through for several first-half sacks.
The Warriors finished with just 53 yards rushing on 31 tries, an average of less than 2 yards per carry.
The visiting team did have 249 yards passing, but the sacks and interceptions kept the offense in check there, too.
“Coach (Randy) Marion and the defensive staff did a fantastic job,” said Diamont.
“Our kids played very hard,” he said. “There were times they didn’t execute properly, but the effort was great.”
Midway through the second quarter, West Iredell completed a long pass inside the 5-yard line and used three straight quarterback keepers to push the ball over with 3:58 left in the half.
A couple of quick passes to Austin Johnson moved the Cards down the field, but the drive stalled out at midfield just before the half.
After Brewster’s interception, the return and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball to the West Iredell 49.
Zach Koons broke off a 20-yard run, and then Gilley used an end-around play to score from 23 yards out.
Soccer player Ethan Atkins made his first-ever extra point try for a 7-7 tie at 5:56 of the third quarter.
Brewster saved a first down with a great pass deflection on the next drive.
Then the punt snap went high and off the fingertips of the Warrior punter. By the time the player got back to the ball, Lawson tackled the punter at the 12-yard line for a turnover.
Quarterback John Dickenson used a keeper to reach the 4, and Koons finished it off from there. With 4:30 left in the quarter, East Surry went up 13-7.
Gilley preserved the lead with two good defensive plays. In addition to his interception, he made a tackle short of the first-down marker on a fourth-down play for a turnover at the Cards’ 8-yard line.
The Cardinals finished with 174 yards rushing on 30 carries. Dickenson was 7-16 passing for 60 yards and added an insurance TD with a late keeper.
Koons led the attack with 85 yards on 18 carries with one score.
Diamont said he was happy with special teams as Atkins went 2-3 on extra points, Anthony Matta kicked off for the first time and Madison Chilton punted well in his debut.