WALNUT COVE — East Surry drew first blood and never let South Stokes get away in a narrow 24-22 win.
In the first round of the 1AA state playoffs, the Cardinals trailed just for a few minutes of the second quarter before retaking the lead.
“We played very well,” said Coach David Diamont. “There are not many times in life you get a chance to do things over again.”
The Cardinals lost to the Sauras 32-3 on Oct. 5.
“Our offensive line played extremely well,” he said. “We had great practice this week, and this shows with our young men what kind of character they have.”
He admitted the team wasn’t very good at the end of the season.
The guys could have given up mentally and looked ahead to basketball and wrestling seasons, he said. “But they didn’t, and they were rewarded tonight with a great victory.”
East Surry had a 5-4 record before ending the regular season with two lopsided losses to North Surry and Mount Airy by a combined 84-7.
After the loss a month ago, not many people outside the Cards’ locker room were giving East much hope of winning.
“We played really good defense,” said Diamont, and his assistant coaches deserve credit.
The Cards changed some things around like promoting two JV players up to the starting defense, and moving defensive back Austin Johnson to linebacker.
“On offense, we simplified some things. We tried to get the ball to Jeremy Gilley early in the game because he’s our big playmaker,” he said. When the D adapted, the Cards threw something else at them.
“We ran the ball well in the second half,” he said. “John Dickenson had a great game at quarterback. It all came together, and we’re absolutely delighted about that. It is amazing how resilient these kids have been.”
With the team moving on to face Monroe in the second round, Diamont said, “I’m just really happy our seniors are experiencing some success at the end of the season. It was a happy bus ride back from Walnut Cove.”
The Cards moved the ball down the field in the first quarter, including a nice pickup to Gilley from Dickenson. Then the quarterback used a sneak to score from one yard out to take the lead.
After a Saura score, the Cards came right back with another drive, finishing with a second TD from Dickenson for a 14-7 lead with the Ethan Atkins extra point.
Sauras’ Jacquan Martin struck back with a touchdown. After a two-point conversion, the Sauras led 15-14.
Just before halftime, East Surry drove down the field and got a field goal from Atkins to retake the lead at 17-15.
In the third quarter, East picked up some nice gains through the air and finished the drive with a run by Zach Koons for a 24-15 lead.
South Stokes’ Quarterback J.J. Davis sneaked the ball into the end zone with only two minutes to go in the forth quarter, closing the gap to 24-22. However, the Cards didn’t give them another possession.