The next-to-last Surry County “rivalry game” will be contested tonight, and there’s much more on the line for Surry Central and North Surry than just local bragging rights.
The Golden Eagles have hardly been dominant this season despite a 7-1 overall record, having won three games by a single point and another one by two points, but their combination of experience, opportunistic play, and excellent special teams have put the team in position to win the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference title this season.
However, a lot of football remains to be played, and North Surry (3-5, 1-1 WPAC) still has designs on winning that title itself if it could knock off Surry Central. Any of four teams could claim the title this season, and a Greyhound victory on Friday would give that squad a 2-1 record against the other contenders.
Over in the Northwest Conference, both No. 3 ranked Mount Airy and East Surry will be favored to win their road games against league rivals Atkins and Bishop McGuinness, respectively. For the Cardinals (5-3, 2-1 NW1A) the game is a battle for third place in the conference and a higher playoff seed. It’s also East’s last tune-up before facing arch-rival Mount Airy in two weeks, as East will receive a forfeit from North Stokes next Friday.
The Granite Bears will be heavy favorites to knock off the Camels, who have shown improvement this season but haven’t come closer than 28 points to any of their eight opponents this season.
NORTH SURRY AT SURRY CENTRAL
Either of these two teams, along with Carver and West Stokes, could come out on top when the topsy-turvy WPAC race comes to an end. and even the two teams that aren’t considered likely contenders are good enough to beat one of the top four if they’re off their game.
After two weeks of play, only Surry Central has not taken a conference loss and only South Stokes hasn’t won a league contest yet. The Golden Eagles opened WPAC action two weeks ago with a 7-6 victory over preseason favorite Carver, in which Martin Palacios scored the tying touchdown and kicked the winning PAT with just 91 seconds remaining. Last week, while Central was outscoring South Stokes 55-38, Carver bounced back with an 18-7 home win over the Hounds.
However, North Surry had already established its bona fides as a contender the previous week, when it edged defending league champ West Stokes 20-17.
There are no secrets between these two teams, and many of the same faces will be on the field as were there a year ago, when the Hounds won 37-15 over an injury-depleted Eagles team. The score was 23-15 after three quarters, but North pulled away in the final quarter.
The most important matchup is likely between the Central defense and North Surry’s aggressive offense. The Eagles faced a similar scheme in week three, when they beat Wilkes Central 28-27. However, Wilkes’ spread attack is built more around its running backs, while the Hounds’ revolves around the running and throwing of quarterback Avery Smith.
EAST SURRY AT BISHOP McGUINNESS
The Cardinals gutted out a 17-12 win over Winston-Salem Prep last week in what Coach David Diamont admitted was an ‘ugly’ game, but one that East Surry could nevertheless be proud of, as it was won by a team that was extremely thin due to injuries, against a team that was physically bigger and stronger.
East Surry will need to get its offense going to defeat Bishop, a team which is much more creative in its play-calling than Prep, a team which relies almost solely on smashmouth football. The Villains (4-5, 2-2 NW1A) have a standout at quarterback, Peter Ingle, who has thrown for 2,686 yards in nine games this season, while completing 56 percent of his passes with an excellent 31-8 touchdown to interception ratio. However, Bishop is also somewhat one-dimensional in its offense; the Villains pass about 60 percent of the time and average just 3.4 yards per rush. And when they do run, Ingle has 378 of their 656 yards on the ground this season.
It’s safe to say that the Cardinals’ pass rush and secondary will be put to the test against Bishop.
The Villains were the last team to play North Stokes this season before injuries forced that school to cancel the rest of their season, winning 42-0 on Sept. 23. Bishop was edged 22-20 by Prep the next week, then beat Atkins 41-13 before getting swamped by the Granite Bears last week.
When the Villains faced Winston-Salem Prep, the team’s inability to control the ball on the ground was its Achilles’ heel, as the Phoenix held a 337-100 edge in rushing yards. However, Bishop was able to move the ball, and actually ran 59 plays to just 54 for Prep. The heavy reliance on Ingle was in evidence, as he accounted for 235 of their 267 yards of total offense. Look for the Cardinals to sell out to stop the 6’1”, 175-pound senior.
MOUNT AIRY AT ATKINS
Although the Camels are a much better team than they were a year ago, when Atkins inflicted a 72-6 defeat on itself at Wallace Shelton Stadium by constantly turning the ball over late in the game, the Granite Bears are also much better.
After scoring just six points in its first five games, Atkins has done better in conference play, losing 41-6 to East Surry, 49-18 to Walkertown and 41-13 to Bishop. Along with the Villains, the Camels have another common opponent with Mount Airy in North Surry, who they lost 33-0 against.
The key for Mount Airy will be to avoid getting anyone hurt leading into next week’s showdown with Walkertown (5-4, 4-0) for first place in the conference. The Wolfpack will enter that game coming off two straight weeks off.