PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry took Ragsdale to the limit when the teams faced-off in 2017. The Cardinals ultimately fell to the 4A Tigers by one point in a game that came down to the final minute.
Ragsdale (4-2) made the trip to East this year looking to make a point and put an exclamation point on the series. Meanwhile, the Cardinals (4-2) sought redemption, not just against Ragsdale but from their first loss of the 2018 against West Stokes last week. An explosive first quarter from the Ragsdale was too much for East to overcome as the Cardinals dropped their second game of the season, 35-21.
The Tigers didn’t need anytime to feel East Surry out. Only 1:45 into the game, Ragsdale running back Willie Brown plowed into the end zone as the Tigers took a 7-0 lead.
Jefferson Boaz earned the start at quarterback as the Cardinals’ leading passer, Stephen Gosnell, was out with an injury.
The East Surry offense responded with a quick drive of their own. Boaz connected with Dillon Mosley to get into Ragsdale territory and followed it up with a long QB keeper. Logan Ray plugged the ball in from the 1-yard line at the 8:25 mark, with a PAT from Derek Sutterby tying the game at 7-7.
It began to look like a shootout when Ragsdale marched down the field once again. Devan Boykin, under center for the Tigers, began the drive with a 17-yard QB keeper. Boykin then converted on back-to-back first down passes to Tre Goode to reach East Surry’s 32. Ray ended the Tigers’ first-down streak when he took down Trey Jackson in the backfield.
A short run from Brown set up Boykin for a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jonah Handy at 6:21. The PAT soared through the uprights as the Tigers regained the lead, 14-7.
Elijah Wright returned the kickoff to East Surry’s 38 to begin drive No. 2. Boaz moved the chains immediately with a 13-yard keeper, but that was about it for the series. An incomplete pass and two short runs set up fourth-and-6 for the Cardinals on the Ragsdale 45. Boaz’s pass fell incomplete, leading to a turnover-on-downs.
Runs from Brown and Boykin moved the Tigers into Cardinal territory. A horse collar call on East put Ragsdale on the Cards’ 30. Boykin scrambled for another first down before being pushed out by Quincy Smith just inside the red zone.
Brown ran up the middle, but was halted by East’s Isaac Washington. Ragsdale once again went to Brown and this time the senior fell just short of the goal line. Brown rammed into the end zone on the next play for his second score of the game.
Trailing 21-7 in the first quarter, East was desperate for a score to stay competitive. However, the Cardinals had to punt on a three-and-out after two short runs from Mitchell Edwards and an incomplete pass to Kyler Jessup. The Tigers regained possession and marched into Cardinal territory as the first quarter came to an end.
East was knocking on the door of a Tiger punt in the early going of the second quarter. Faced with fourth-and-9, Ragsdale faked a punt, and Garrett Collins to run up the right sideline for a first down.
The Cardinal secondary stepped up and made two key break-ups on first and second down. Mosley broke up a pass on third down to force another fourth down. Just out of field goal range, Boykin ran an option but was taken down short of a first down by Gunnar Jones.
East Surry was then faced with another fourth down, this time on offense. On the Cardinals’ own 39, Elijah Wright’s run on fourth-and-3 was held up to give Ragsdale good starting position.
The Cardinals struggled in the first quarter with stopping the Tigers on early downs. In the second quarter, the Cardinals were able to force third and even fourth downs, but had trouble stopping the Tigers consistently. Ragsdale overcame another fourth down with a Boykin pass to Adones Vanderhall.
Ragsdale made it 28-7 when Boykin found Donavon Platt for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 6:41 left in the first half.
Wright’s kickoff return put East on its own 30. Back-to-back illegal procedure plays on the Tigers gave the Cards a first down without having to snap the ball. Two more first downs were on the menu as Boaz first connected with Nathan Sheets for a 21-yard gain and then ran a keeper to the Ragsdale 22.
East Surry moved into the red zone on a Boaz pass to Smith. The Cardinals fumbled on first-and-10 just outside the 10-yard line, but Ray recovered it. The Cards recovered but still faced fourth-and-2 on the four. The subsequent run into a pile of Ragsdale players led to a fumble that was recovered by the Tigers.
Ragsdale started from its own four-yard line and ran the clock down to the end of the half. The Tigers led 28-7 with 24 minutes of game time remaining.
A return from Wright combined with a Ragsdale personal foul at the end of the play put East Surry on its own 43 to open the third quarter. Boaz had back-to-back keepers to cross midfield, but the Cardinals faced fourth-and-short. AJ Bruton kept the drive alive with a short run that moved the chains.
East was then faced with another fourth-down situation after runs from Edwards. A fourth-and-2 turned into fourth-and-7 after an illegal procedure call on the Cardinals. Boaz was pressured immediately and tried to escape the Tiger defenders before being tackled in the backfield.
The Cardinals got a second chance after forcing a Tiger three-and-out. Boaz was sacked on the first play of the drive. Ray gained five yards on a short run but it was still third-and-15. Just when it looked like another fourth-down situation was approaching, Boaz threw a bomb to Landon Stevens. Stevens hauled in the 71-yard pass to make it 28-14.
Back-to-back punts from both East and Ragsdale ended the third quarter and took a chunk out of the fourth. The Cardinals nearly cut it to a one-score game when Hoyt Bullington and Edwards were just inches away from blocking one of the Tigers’ punts.
Time was running out for a Cardinal comeback. Ragsdale relied on Brown to move the chains and keep the clock moving. East needed a stop and nearly got it until Boykin broke free on a 51-yard keeper to make it 35-14 with just 6:09 on the clock.
East managed to pull a rabbit out of its hats when Ragsdale thought Edwards was down on a running play. Instead, he kept running and made it to the Tigers’ 30. Their luck soon ran out, as Boaz was intercepted to put the game away.
The Cardinals did manage one more score in the game. Boaz connected with Kyler Jessup with a touchdown pass with just 45 seconds remaining on the clock. Ragsdale took the game 35-21 to improve to 4-2 as East fell to 4-2.
The Cardinals have a bye next week and will begin conference play on October 5 at Bishop McGuinness (4-2).
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith