WILKESBORO — Surry Central’s football team is still seeking its first win of the 2017 season, but the Golden Eagles took a big step forward in an unusual Monday night game at Wilkes Central.
Except for not being able to get the ball into the end zone, the Golden Eagles outplayed their hosts for most of a first half that ended with the teams separated by just a single point. Wilkes Central finally wore down its guests in the second half and pulled away for a 34-19 victory, but Surry Central fans had to be pleased with seeing their team be competitive on the road against a quality opponent.
The Golden Eagles mounted two impressive first-half drives in which a salty Wilkes Central (2-1) defense forced the visitors to work their way down the field methodically, with solid execution. If there was any disappointment, it was that Surry Central was unable to cap either march off with a touchdown. The Golden Eagles took a 3-0 lead on a 26-yard field goal by Martin Palacios with three seconds left in the first quarter, and then made the score 7-6 when Palacios hit from 34 yards with 1:18 left before halftime.
Wilkes Central, also known as the Eagles but not golden ones, also had two strong drives in the opening 24 minutes. It had the first possession of the game and held the ball for almost five minutes, moving from its 29-yard line to the Surry Central 26 before losing the ball on downs. The Golden Eagles then took over and Martin Palacios had a 50-yard run on their third play from scrimmage, but it was called back for a penalty. Maisen Holt came in for him on the next play and hit Noah Cox for a first down near midfield.
When the visitors faced fourth down moments later, Palacios fooled Wilkes by passing out of punt formation, and one of its defenders panicked and tackled a Surry Central receiver for a 15-yard penalty and a first down. From there, the Golden Eagles marched all the way to the Wilkes 5-yard line but could get no closer.
Following Palacios’ first field goal, Wilkes Central struck quickly, with Tyler Boles catching a short pass in traffic from quarterback Skyler Brooks. The hosts executed some excellent downfield blocks on the play and the only Surry Central player with a chance to make the stop missed the tackle. Boles out-sprinted the visitors’ corners to the end zone and gave Wilkes a 7-3 lead with 10:12 left in the first half.
Midway through the quarter, Surry Central’s defense made a determined stand on fourth-and-1 from its 46 and threw the Wilkes ball-carrier for a loss. Palacios and Holt took turns behind center as the Golden Eagles marched into Wilkes Central territory again, earning a first down at the hosts’ 19 after a five-yard keeper by Holt on third down. However, the drive bogged down from there, and Surry Central had to settle for another Palacios field goal and a 7-6 game at the half.
The Golden Eagles started the second half by fumbling away opening kickoff, but their defense got it back two plays later. The teams then traded possessions cleanly, but it was Surry Central that blinked first, allowing a 33-yard run by Boles to midfield and then committing a personal foul that was tacked onto it. In one play, Wilkes went from its 17 to the visitors’ 35, and they cashed it in a couple of players later, when Boles ran 23 yards for a score and a 13-6 Wilkes lead with 6:52 left in the third.
When the Golden Eagles turned the ball over on their next series, the home team took advantage, and with the help of two more 15-year penalties assessed against Surry Central, scored on an 8-yard run by Evan Howell to lead 21-6 with 3:33 left in the third.
To its credit, Surry Central refused to fold. The Golden Eagles answered the score with one of their own, taking it 67 yards in the other direction in just 31 seconds. Ryan Martin rumbled for 11 yards to the Wilkes 29 and then got 15 more tacked on when Wilkes Central was flagged for leading with the helmet. On the next play, Holt dropped back and found a wide-open Tanner Boone in the right flat for the touchdown. Palacios’ point-after made it 21-13.
However, the Golden Eagles’ defense had been on the field too much, and Wilkes took over down the stretch. The hosts went 65 yards for a score on their next series, making it 27-13 on a 37-yard scamper by Boles with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. Wilkes Central’s defense got a stop and put the Golden Eagle defense right back on the field. With 9:12 left, Brooks ran 34 yards for another non-Golden Eagle touchdown.
Wilkes Central inexplicably kicked the ball onsides after the touchdown. When Surry Central recovered it but then turned the ball over shortly thereafter, Wilkes marched from its 32 all the way to the 9-yard line of the Golden Eagles before the visitors halted them.
A 91-yard scoring march by Surry Central, playing for no more than pride at this point, culminated in a six-yard run by Tanner Boone with 3:10 remaining. The Golden Eagles weren’t ready to surrender, and tried an onside kick of their own, but this time Wilkes got it and ran out the clock for the win.
Surry Central will travel to East Surry on Friday night.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.