Three of Surry County’s four high school football teams will be in action this Friday night, but only one of the four will be playing at home. Unbeaten East Surry will be the second local school to have its Homecoming contest, with winless Atkins (0-5) hopefully proving to be an accommodating foe for the occasion.
Both North Surry and Surry Central will hit the road, with North traveling to Oakboro for its first clash against West Stanly (2-2) in at least a decade. Central, riding a two-game winning streak, will not only be trying to make it three in a row, it will be seeking to avenge a loss to Salisbury in last year’s 2-A state playoffs.
Mount Airy, coming off last Friday’s surprising 20-0 setback at the hands of Central, takes this Friday off before hosting North Stokes (3-2) next week.
Surry Central at Salisbury
Many of the Golden Eagles hadn’t been born yet the last time the school’s football team earned a victory over Mount Airy, but the 2015 version did it in style last week, blanking the Bears 20-0.
Normally, the expectation would be a huge letdown the following week, especially with a non-conference game on tap. Fortunately, that might not be the case this Friday.
If Central can’t take on another local rival after such an emotional win, the Hornets might be the next-best thing to get excited about. The two teams squared off in the first round of last year’s 2-A state playoffs, where the Golden Eagles largely outplayed their hosts, but lost 14-10 thanks to a fumble returned for a touchdown and a failure to reach the end zone on two possessions where they drove inside the Hornets’ 10-yard line.
“I think it will hit home when we walk into that locker room, back in the place where our season died,” said Southern. “I think we’ll come out and want to set things right.
“With teenagers, you have to fight against a letdown. We’ve talked about that. If we can build on the win over Mount Airy, it will be a great win for our program. If we have a bad year, but we beat Mount Airy, that doesn’t mean as much.”
Salisbury lost several seniors and doesn’t appear to be as strong this season, but this may be deceiving due to the team’s high level of competition. The Hornets opened the season with a 35-20 win over South Rowan, but have lost four in a row since, to East Rowan (33-0), Carson (27-13), Lake Norman (55-8) and Ledford (26-0). However, all of these schools are play at a higher classification.
“The rest of their non-conference schedule is 3-A and 4-A schools,” said Southern. “They’re used to a high level of competition.”
Fortunately, last week proved that the Golden Eagles can provide a pretty high level in their own right. Southern said they’ll have to in order to beat Salisbury.
“They average about 250 on the offensive line, and they’re bigger and stronger than they were last year,” he said. “The defensive line was the key to our win last week, and we’ll need to play as well as we did last Friday.”
This is the final tune-up game before Central enters Western Piedmont 2-A Conference action.
The game will kick off at 6 p.m., rather than the normal 7:30 p.m. start time.
North Surry at West Stanly
The Greyhounds, who are just a few plays—and six points—away from being unbeaten this season, hope to race into Western Piedmont Conference play in two weeks on a high note.
“We could be 4-1 or 5-0 right now,” said coach Danny Lyons, “but we’re only focused right now on winning this game and going into the bye week at 4-2, then having two great weeks of practice before we start conference.
“We’re a confident football team and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
North’s final non-conference tune-up comes against a West Stanly team that has experienced a number of ups and downs already. The Colts opened with a 30-12 win over county rival South Stanly, then fell 41-21 to perennial powerhouse West Montgomery. Week three saw them defeat county rival Albemarle for the first time in nine years, 6-0, but they followed up that performance with a 44-28 setback at North Stanly to even their mark at 2-2.
West Stanly is a run-oriented team, which runs twice as often as it throws, and is much more effective at the former. Leading the Colts’ ground attack is junior Malik Jackson, with 612 yards and seven touchdowns on 84 carries. Another junior, Joseph Izaguire, is second on the team with 132 yards on 17 carries and one score.
“Malik Jackson stands out on film,” said Lyons. “Their offense goes through him, and our defense is going to have its work cut out for them.”
Junior quarterback Christian Boone has completed 27 of 61 passes this season for 381 yards. His favorite target is senior Taylan Rowe, with 19 catches for 282 yards and all three of the team’s passing touchdowns this year.
Defensively, Lyons cited linebacker Conner Edwards, a 6-2, 210-pound junior, as a player the Greyhounds need to keep tabs on at all times.
“He makes a ton of tackles,” the coach said. “We’ve got to be aware of where he is.”
Atkins at East Surry
On paper, Atkins is the perfect Homecoming patsy.
The Camels have struggled mightily this season, losing all five of their games by 40 points or more. Although Atkins has struggled, and the Cardinals beat them handily in both 2013 and 2014, head coach David Diamont doesn’t want his players taking them lightly.
Diamont pointed out that Atkins, playing in Forsyth County, runs into a lot of large 4-A schools that it is simply outmanned against, and he expects that East will be at the top of its game Friday night.
“What we always talk about is that the next game is the most important game,” he said. This is the start of conference play, and as far as we’re concerned, we’re 0-0 and they’re 0-0.
“We need to pick up any firing linebackers,” Diamont added, referring to the fact that the Cardinals had some trouble last year when the Camels blitzed linebackers against them. “We don’t want them to make our defense adjust to them. We want them to have to adjust to us.”
The Cardinals’ strong start to the 2015 season has them rated as one of the strongest 1-A teams in the state. The NCPreps.com Baker’s Dozen rates them No. 4 in the division, while the MaxPreps.com power ratings have them in fifth.