KING — The West Stokes defense had Ian Holder dead in the water on a busted play inside the red zone. Then Mount Airy’s backup quarterback somehow escaped and dove across the pylon into the end zone for a back-breaking third-quarter touchdown.
It was that kind of night for the Granite Bears.
Holder sparkled in place of injured starter Jackson Smith and the Bears’ defense made life rough on the Wildcats in a 21-7 nonconference victory Friday night.
Mount Airy improved to 2-0 and West fell to 1-1.
Holder threw a touchdown pass on Mount Airy’s opening drive and then stuck a dagger in the Wildcats with an improbable run that gave the Bears a three-touchdown lead with just over a quarter left.
“We were running an outside pass play and I was running the ball and I just saw nothing there, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to improvise,’” Holder said. “On the football field, no matter what, you’ve just got be a playmaker. My linemen bought enough time for me, I rolled right, I saw some people open and thought, ‘I’ve just got to get the ball in the end zone.’ That’s what I did. Somehow I got in there.”
He put on a show against the Wildcats. Holder finished with nine carries for 142 yards and a touchdown. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 126 yards with a touchdown and interception.
Coach Kelly Holder of Mount Airy said his son Ian hasn’t had many reps at quarterback and that the team didn’t know Smith, who injured his hand, wasn’t going to play until Wednesday.
“(West) kept wanting to go man and put seven in the box,” Coach Holder said. “We knew if (Ian) got loose, he’s a playmaker. He made some tonight. He threw the ball well early, too.”
Malik Frost had a big run and Ian Holder was 3-for-3 on the Bears’ opening drive. Holder completed a short pass in the flat to Johnathan Smith, who took off down the left sideline for a 24-yard touchdown. Robert Brown’s extra point try split the uprights for a 7-0 Mount Airy lead with 6:53 left in the first quarter.
Wildcats QB Reid Fulk lost a fumble to Sean Evans early in the second quarter, but Holder coughed it up on the ensuing drive and Jakob Wallace recovered for West. Senior defensive end Gabriel King, who created havoc up front, sacked Fulk on the next drive and West eventually had to punt.
Frost ripped off a 17-yard run — bouncing off several West tacklers, and Holder scrambled for another first down run on a play that included a flag for a late hit on the Wildcats. Frost and Johnathan Smith did the rest, with the latter scoring up the middle on a 10-yard run at the 4:23 mark of the second quarter. Brown, who came up just short on two field goal attempts in the game (38 and 45 yards), converted the extra point for a 14-0 lead.
“(Mount Airy) made more plays than we did,” Wildcats coach Jimmy Upchurch said. “Holder’s an experienced, really good high school football player. He made a lot of good plays. It wasn’t just him. They had several who made more plays than we did.
“They are a much more experienced, older football team than we are. We are very young and inexperienced. These kids are young, but they are going to mature. I’m proud of them. They are going to get better.”
Senior running back Devan Hairston scored the only touchdown on the night for West. After a pair of first-down completions from Fulk to Tyler Little and Nick Breen, Hairston took a handoff and outran the Bears’ defense down the right sideline for a 41-yard TD. Patrick Ellis made the extra point to make it 21-7 with 1:49 remaining in the third quarter.
“Our defense played really well,” Kelly Holder said. “(Hairston) is a special player. I don’t know why they don’t give it to him 30 times a game. He’s a good player and he’s tough. But they can throw it and they are pretty good at it. We did a good job on (wide receiver Charlie Freeman). They helped us out and dropped some balls.”
Jordan Smith picked off a pass from Ian Holder early in the fourth to give the Wildcats a golden opportunity to get back in the game. But a holding penalty negated a completion, and then King sacked Fulk for an 11-yard loss on third down.
“They were doubling (King) every pass play,” Coach Holder said. “It was tough, but man he’s good. He’s a good player. He plays hard.”
Upchurch said King is as good as anybody the Wildcats will see all year.
“He’s a really good player and a good kid,” Upchurch said. “I’ve watched him a lot, and he’s better than he was last year.”
West managed to overcome six turnovers a week ago in a win against Central Davidson. They weren’t as fortunate Friday night.
Trailing by two TDs early in the fourth, Tyler Walker tackled Frost in the backfield on third down to force Mount Airy to kick the football away. But West mishandled the punt, Mount Airy recovered, and the Wildcats were whistled for a 15-yard personal foul. The Bears started inside the 10. On the third play, Holder was in the end zone and it was 21-0.
“With the injuries we’ve had … us not knowing about Jackson until Wednesday, I’m telling you, I am really proud about this win,” the Mount Airy coach said.
Ian Holder saw plenty of time at quarterback a year ago before Jackson Smith took over late last season.
“Jackson stepped in. He’s a heck of a quarterback,” Ian Holder said. “I thought, I’ve got to step in and win the ball game. I can’t thank the linemen enough. Best pass protection I’ve had all night. We just played an awesome game. I’m glad I was able to step in and contribute like that …
“West Stokes is a good football team. We knew we had to jump on them and start awesome from the beginning. That’s what we did. Momentum carried on from there and we just finished.”
Hairston started West’s final drive of the night with a 20-yard run, but Fulk threw an incompletion, and Hairston was stopped by King in the backfield for a big loss. Fulk’s next two passes fell incomplete — the last throw just beyond the reach of Breen. Mount Airy took over on downs, and on 3rd and 15, Holder broke a 40-yard run.
West will try to get back on the winning track in Week 3 when it takes on North Iredell.
“Ian’s a good player,” Upchurch said. “They’ve got a lot of weapons. We were hoping to slow their offense down. We did not play well on offense. Mount Airy’s defense played really, really good …
“If we don’t minimize turnovers, you are not going to beat a good team like Mount Airy.”
The Bears will try to improve to 3-0 when they host Elkin on Sept. 2.