After giving up a narrow loss to Central Academy last year, the Granite Bears made sure this game wasn’t close.
Mount Airy fell behind early, but score the last 37 points for a 47-14 win over the Cougars in the first round of the 1AA state playoffs.
The Bears needed a little time to figure out the Cougars’ tricky offense, then clamped down on defense from the second quarter on.
Running back Zaqwan Dobson had 148 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while quarterback Austin Taylor had 121 yards rushing and threw a TD pass as well.
“It didn’t start real fun,” said Coach Kelly Holder. “We were a little confused on defense.”
Central Academy put several different players back at the quarterback spot and often loaded the backfield with bodies. On one pass play, the Cougars had four receivers all bunched up on the right side for a bubble screen.
Mount Airy got the ball first and moved down the field thanks to a big pickup by Taylor. The offense stalled just outside the red zone. With 9:17 left in the first, Mitchell Brown gave the Bears a 3-0 lead with a field goal from 38 yards that still had some distance to spare.
The Cougars returned the kickoff to the 32-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, receiver DeShawn Morrison lined up in the shotgun. He took the snap, sprinted right and raced untouched through the defense. He was finally hit inside the five, but fell across the goal line for a 68-yard TD with 8:56 left for a 7-3 lead.
The Bears answered right back. After a short pass to Jarrett Simmons, Taylor kept the ball on the next play and raced 50 yards around the right side down to the 4-yard line. On the next snap, Dobson took a dive play to the left in for a 4-yard TD with 7:59 in the quarter for a 10-7 Bear lead.
Central Academy started the next drive at their 23-yard line. In their only sustained drive in the game, the Cougars moved the ball down the field with runs and screen passes.
The Bears stuffed the offense back to the 14-yard line to force third-and-goal. On a pass play that wasn’t far enough for a score, Darius Gwyn was called for pass interference to give Central Academy a first down at the 6-yard line.
From there, Cameron Frasier scored with 2:50 in the first for a 14-10 lead.
After that drive, however, the Bears were ready for the Cougars and didn’t allow them close enough to threaten again.
The next kickoff bounced down to the 11-yard line, but the Bears had little trouble moving down the field 89 yards for a score.
The Bears lined up in a power I with fullback Andrew Jones (5-foot-11 and 205 pounds) and Dobson (5-foot-9 and 221 pounds).
After softening the D with some runs, Taylor went play-action to Dobson, then found Jones in the right flat for a 23-yard gain.
On the next play, Taylor used an option fake to Dobson that fooled two Cougars into tackling the running back while Taylor went nine yards to the 30-yard line.
Sophomore Shay Wilson came into the game to spell Dobson and had a 10-yard gain for a first down.
Dobson had a nine-yard gain to the 11, where Jones finished off the drive with a TD run.
Jones had a full head of steam when two tacklers met him at the 4-yard line, but he pushed the pile all the way to the goal line for a 17-14 lead with 10:45 left in the half.
The Cougars had a chance to answer once again, but two penalties crippled their chances.
A push in the back on the kickoff started the drive on the 7-yard line. After a four-yard run, the offense had a false start back to second-and-11.
On the punt, Taylor returned the ball to the 36-yard line for a short field.
It looked like the Cougars might stop the Bears, but a middle screen to Darius Gwyn picked up 16 yards and a first down.
At the 10-yard line, the Bears faked a dive to Jones and pitched right to Dobson for a 10-yard TD with 7:26 left and a 24-14 lead.
After that, the wheels seemed to come off on the Cougars’ offense.
Darius Gwyn had one interception and nearly had another, but stepped on the sideline as he secured the ball. Taylor had an interception as well.
After Gwyn’s pick, Dobson raced 43 yards into Cougar territory, then finished it off with a four-yard run for a 31-14 lead with 3:53.
That is where the lead stood at the half.
Taylor, Dobson and Jones moved the ball down the field in the third quarter to the 12-yard line. On a play-action fake to Dobson, Taylor found Garrett VanHoy on the right side for a TD catch. With 8:54 in the third, the Bears led 38-14.
A couple of possessions later, Central Academy went all the way to the Bears’ 35-yard line, but stalled.
After Gwyn’s near-interception at the sideline, the Cougars turned over the ball on downs.
After an exchange of possessions, Wilson got a few more carries as the Bears moved from the 11-yard line into field goal range. Brown booted a 26-yarder for a 41-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Coach Holder began to use substitutes liberally to protect the starters.
That is how the Bears wound up with senior Austin Bowman getting a chance to play at the end of the game. He had three carries for 38 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown for his first high school score on the last play of the game.
“We’re beaten up,” Holder said after the game. “We’ve got to get healthy and be ready to play.”
Defensive MVP Julius Coram is out for the rest of the season. Also out of action were running back Davontae Dobson and kick returner Logan Young, although Young could be back next week.
At this point, anyone can win on a given night and advance in the playoffs, Holder said.
Central Academy fell to 2-10 with an athletic, but young team. The Bears improved to 11-1.
The Cougars had 223 yards of total offense, while the Bears tallied a whopping 531 yards.
In addition to Taylor and Dobson each breaking 100 yards, Wilson finished with nine carries for 67 yards.
Taylor was 5-6 passing for 65 yards and the one TD.
The Bears will host West Montgomery on Friday. West Montgomery (7-4) used a late comeback to defeat North Rowan 34-28.