WINSTON-SALEM — Anyone who sees the final score of North Surry’s season-opening win over North Forsyth would think the Greyhounds didn’t do very well defensively.
They would be wrong.
“I think it sounds strange to say this, but that was a defensive game that we won 41-33,” said North Surry head coach Danny Lyons. “I was proud of our defense and how they played tonight.”
The Hounds outscored their hosts in a high-scoring game, but it was largely due to the efforts on the other side of the ball. North Surry forced six turnovers, scored four touchdowns on defense, and had to hold on in the fourth quarter in a game where the coaching staff was rotating six linemen, lost its two top running backs to injury, and had the usual rash of first-game cramping on a muggy August evening.
North Surry (1-0) led 34-7 late in the second quarter, but scored just once after that. The Hounds forced the Vikings to turn the ball over on each of their last two possessions, while clinging to an eight-point lead.
“I’ve never been part of a football game like that,” Lyons said. “It gave me some more gray hairs, but it was a fun game to be a part of.”
Things started out conventionally for the Hounds, as quarterback Chase Swartz hit Jordan Shelar on a quick slant early in North Surry’s second possession, and Shelar broke two tackles and took off on a 71-yard romp to the end zone that put his team on top 7-0.
The craziness began on the next possession. The Hound defense stuffed two running plays and put the Vikings in a hole. North Forsyth was forced to punt, and a bad snap got away from the punter and was loose in the end zone, where North Surry’s Clay Shumate fell on it for a touchdown and a 13-0 lead.
The Vikings scored before the end of the first quarter to make it 13-7 heading into the second, but the Hounds weren’t done blowing up the home team’s punting game. An exchange of punts and more good North Surry defense forced North Forsyth to punt from deep in its own territory, only Kaleb Hunter wouldn’t let the Vikings punt. He blocked it, and Nick Badgett recovered for another Greyhound score and a 20-7 lead.
North Surry wasn’t done making life miserable for the Forsyth offense. The Vikings stopped the Hound offense on a long drive down to their 10-yard line, and then took it the other way on an impressive drive of their own into the North Surry red zone. But on third-and-9 from the 15, they tried a double-pass play into the end zone, where Jordyn Ward picked it off and ran it back 101 yards for a touchdown and a 27-7 Hound advantage.
Things went from bad to worse on the next Forsyth possession. This time, Hunter tipped a Viking pass into the air, where a North Forsyth lineman caught it and was immediately drilled by the North Surry defense. The ball came loose, was batted about, and then Badgett snagged it out of the air and took it to the Vikings’ end zone for a 34-7 lead.
The Greyhounds seemed to be on their way to a blowout victory. But storm clouds were looming, and not just the ones that caused several rain delays in the area.
“When you’re ahead 34-7, you ought to win going away,” said Lyons. “But we already hand Chandler Hawks, one of our two running backs, hurt, and then Ryan Smith got hurt in the second half. We put in Anthony Brown, a sophomore, and we had Jordan Shelar running the ball in the fourth quarter.
“Two of our starting defensive linemen were out because they were hurt in our scrimmage, and we had six guys playing eight positions on the offensive and defensive lines. We don’t like playing linemen both ways, but we had to.”
The Vikings scored before halftime and it was 34-14 at intermission, then hit a 70-yard touchdown pass on the very first play of the third quarter, and were right back in the game at 34-20.
The Hounds’ offense got the insurance score the team needed on the next series. Tanner Woods caught a seven-yard pass from Swartz to keep the drive alive on a third-and-6. Brown scampered 37 yards on a run that took North Surry into the red zone, and then Shelar made a nine-yard catch on third-and-6 from the Forsyth 12-yard line. Smith crashed in for the touchdown to make it 41-20.
The Vikings kept coming against a Greyhound team that was just trying to hang on. They scored and it was 41-27 going into the fourth quarter. North Surry had two straight drives killed by holding penalties. Forsyth scored again, and the score was 41-33 with 8:30 left in the game.
“We need to jell on the offensive line,” said Lyons. “We had too many missed blocks and holding penalties. But we will work on it in practice and we will get better.”
The hosts now had every reason to think they could come back and win. But the Greyhounds weren’t interested in losing the game and making excuses, no matter how justified. The next Forsyth drive was halted when the North Surry defense forced a fumble and Shumate recovered it.
The Vikings got one more chance to tie the game. Colton Sechrist said no, intercepting a pass that allowed the Hounds to secure the victory.
Swartz completed six of 10 passes for 97 yards, while Smith had 17 carries for 125 yards. North Surry had 317 yards of total offense for the game, even though it had just 17 offensive snaps in the entire first half. At one point, the Hounds were on defense for six consecutive possessions.
The Hounds will host Elkin (1-0) this Friday night. Lyons believes he will have all of his injured players back for that game.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.