The fans roared and the pads popped as the Mount Airy Granite Bears once again hosted the East Surry Cardinals, this time in the second round the NCHSAA 1AA state playoffs. There was a big crowd in attendance on both sides of the field, but only one side went home happy, and it wasn’t the same ones as when the teams met for the first time back on Nov. 4.
The efforts made of Mount Airy quarterback Jackson Smith and company almost blanked the Cardinals, and in an almost unforgiving fashion, routing East Surry for a 49-6 revenge victory on Friday night at Wallace Shelton Stadium.
The Cardinals won the toss and the chose to defer. They opened the game from their 36-yard line and had a few first downs with the help of Quincy Smith, but the Bears’ defense was too much for the East Surry offense. Despite two penalties, one for unsportsmanlike conduct, East Surry crossed into Mount Airy territory before Smith tackled the Cardinals’ Joey Ray for a loss of 10 – a pivotal moment that killed East Surry’s early momentum.
With 2:31 left in the first quarter, Smith found a wide-open Donovan Greene in the end zone from 26 yards out, and the Bears became the first to score. The extra point was good as Robert Brown went 7-for-7 for the night on extra points, and the home team ended the opening quarter ahead 7-0.
On a fourth down of the first possession of the second quarter, East Surry registered a false-start penalty and had to punt. Ian Holder received the punt as Mount Airy started its possession on its own 44-yard line. One minute into the quarter, and Mount Airy scored again. Smith handed off to senior Mailk Frost for a 56-yard Bear touchdown. Brown’s PAT gave his team a 14-0 lead.
Things went from bad to worse for East Surry when the Cardinals fumbled shortly after a timeout by Coach David Diamont. The Bears recovered the East Surry fumble and quickly set back up with a first-and-goal, which allowed Holder to collect his first touchdown of the night on a 10-yard run for a 21-0 lead.
With 7:50 left before intermission, Smith found Greene yet again, this time on an 85-yard catch-and-run trip to the end zone to make it 28-0.
As the clock wound down in the second quarter, Ray’s running and a facemask penalty on the Bears had East Surry on the move. With 2:56 left in the second quarter, the Cardinals had a fresh set of downs and Mount Airy had called time out. As the Bears returned from their timeout, East Surry was called for a 5-yard penalty for a false start, one of many they had during the evening. The Cardinals tried to overcome their misfires when quarterback Trevor Hauser almost connected with Garrett Barker in the end zone, but the Bears’ Grayson Corbin prevented a score by breaking up the pass. That put Mount Airy back on offense, and with 55 seconds left to go in the half, Jackson lobbed a deep ball to none other than Corbin in East Surry’s end zone. After another successful extra point, the Bears ended the first half ahead 35–0. The first half of play at Wallace Shelton Stadium consisted of a beautiful display of Granite Bear defense, as the Cards were held scoreless.
“We wanted to make sure that we played the second half like it was 0-0, and we knew that it would be a running clock if we scored and had the ball back. We were determined we were going to make sure that we got to 42, so we could run the clock and keep people from getting hurt,” said Mount Airy coach Kelly Holder.
Three minutes into the third quarter, a Smith pass was initially deflected by a Cardinal defender, but Corbin came up with the grab and ran it in for a 50-yard touchdown. This made the score 42-0 and the running clock was put into place. However, the Bears weren’t done. Frost added another score of his own, on a 33-yard run, to make it 49-0 before the Cardinals finally averted the shutout late in the game.
East Surry earned a fourth-quarter touchdown, courtesy of Ray. The extra point attempt was blocked, and the teams played out the string.
Kelly Holder and his Mount Airy defense stayed on top, with no backing down and no letting up.
“I thought our energy was great, I thought our execution was a lot better… We played much better tonight,” said Holder.
With the triumph, Mount Airy improved their record to an overall 12-1 mark, while avenging its only defeat.
Mount Airy hopes to add to their reputable playoff run as they host Whiteville on Friday for the third round of the playoffs. The Bears traveled to Whiteville for the first round a year ago and won.
The Bears nearly doubled the Cards in yards from scrimmage at 430 yards to 229 yards, according to stats from WPAQ Radio.
WPAQ had the Bears rushing 11 times for 147 yards, including three long runs for Malik Frost for 126 yards. Jackson Smith completed 10-13 passes for 283 yards. He hooked up with Donovan Green four times for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
East Surry rushed 43 times for 167, according to WPAQ. Through the air, the Cards were 4-15 for 62 yards.
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