Mount Airy coach Kelly Holder believes his youthful team will drastically improve as the year goes on.
However, on Friday night, his defense looked like it was in midseason form.
The Granite Bear offense could only muster two touchdowns in its sloppy season opener against the Starmount Rams, but it was more than enough as Mount Airy escaped with a 14-2 victory.
“Our defense won the game for us,” Holder said. “I don’t think (Starmount’s) offense is that bad.”
“I don’t think either team played really well tonight, and offensively we were atrocious at times, but we just have to get better at what we do.”
Starmount’s offensive attack looked great on the first play of scrimmage when Brandon Prescott broke outside the tackle and rumbled down the sideline for a 53-yard gain, but this burst was one of the only signs of life from the Rams throughout the evening.
They only managed 55 more yards in the entire first half.
Senior running back Sean Evans started the game for Mount Airy but left midway thru the first quarter with a leg injury. Junior Orion Ramey, who missed his entire freshman season with a knee injury, stepped into a major role.
Ramey immediately made an impact and supplied the Granite Bears with their best drive of the night. Mount Airy marched 42 yards in 11 plays to score the game’s first touchdown, with Ramey punching it in.
“I was pleased with Orion. He’s waited a long time for this opportunity and he took advantage of it tonight,” Holder said.
The junior running back found a hole up the middle on a third-down run and easily found the end zone from five yards out. He finished the night with 64 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries.
“We kept grinding inside, and my guards were doing amazing,” Ramey said. “My center, the whole line, I wouldn’t be able to do anything without them. We were just going straight up the middle and finding stuff on the interior.”
A bad snap on the ensuing extra point forced Robert Brown’s kick to come up short of the goal post, keeping Mount Airy’s lead at 6-0.
Starmount’s lone score came with 5:00 remaining in the first half, and it was thanks to a Mount Airy special teams’ mistake.
A bad snap on a punt inside Mount Airy territory flew over the head of Ian Holder, and the sophomore was forced to fall on top of the ball inside his own end zone for a safety.
The score remained 6-2 through halftime.
Starmount had a huge opportunity to take the lead in the third quarter after a bad punt from Mount Airy allowed the Rams to start their drive at the Granite Bear 34-yard line.
It looked promising until a dead ball personal foul pushed Starmount out of field-goal range and forced the Rams to punt away. The penalty turned a fourth-and-one opportunity into fourth-and-sixteen.
Neither team did much more until late in the fourth quarter. The Rams botched a punt on their own side of the field that set Mount Airy up with great field position at the Starmount 38-yard line.
On third-and-two, the Bears ran a play-action pass, but nobody was open. Holder tucked the ball into his chest and darted up field. He danced around and made a couple of Ram defenders miss before he found a crease and darted into the end zone for a 19-yard TD run that sealed the win.
Ramey converted the two-point conversion with a short run to put Mount Airy ahead 14-2.
The two scores were enough because of the Mount Airy’s ferocious defensive front. The Granite Bears consistently got into the Starmount backfield and disrupted the play at the line of scrimmage.
Starmount totaled 181 yards throughout the ball game, and 53 of that came on the first play.
Mount Airy can now look ahead to its game next week against West Stokes at home. Coach Holder believes the offense will need to right the ship if Mount Airy will remain undefeated.
“West Stokes is going to be a much more varied and dynamic offense than what Starmount was,” Holder said. “So it is going to be a huge challenge for us.”
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16