The 2017 football season in the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference was clearly the “Year of the Greyhound.”
Featuring an experienced team with more than two dozen seniors, North Surry outlasted all six of its conference foes, tied the school record for wins in a single season with 10, and claimed its first conference championship in football since 2000.
When it came time to vote on All-Conference selections and other postseason honors, the All-WPAC football team was not surprisingly filled with players who wore Greyhound blue and grey.
Seven of the 11 spots on the first-team offense, six of the 11 on defense, and one specialist spot were taken by North Surry players, and the Hounds also had six other players named Honorable Mention All-Conference.
Where the individual awards were concerned, two of those also went to the Hounds. North Surry head coach Danny Lyons was named as the Coach of the Year, and quarterback Chase Swartz was named as the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.
To those who saw North Surry play during the 2016 season, the offensive selections would come as no surprise. The Hounds remained in their vaunted “Air Raid” offense, but more often than not, used an outstanding running game to set up their passing attack. Both of North’s primary running backs, senior Sammy McMillian (190-981, 12 TD) and junior Ryan Smith (143-831, 10 TD) made the All-Conference team, running behind an offensive line anchored by All-Conference selections Alex Gudino and Ryan Eldridge.
What really lifted North Surry into the championship circle, however, was how well the team’s passing attack complemented its running game. The Hounds entered the season with question marks at the quarterback position, but Lyons suggested in the preseason that any concerns were overblown. He was right. Swartz, as a sophomore, completed 99 of 169 passes for 1,826 yards and 16 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. When Forbush tried stacking its defense in the next-to-last game of the regular season and dared Swartz to beat them, he obliged, completing 12 of 20 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-7 rout.
Swartz’ two favorite targets in the passing game, senior Darius Duncan and sophomore Nick Badgett, joined him on the All-Conference team as well. Duncan caught just 18 passes for 384 yards on the season, but eight of the 18 receptions went for six points. Badgett hauled in 29 passes for 786 yards and six scores.
Defensively, three of North Surry’s linebackers were chosen to the All-Conference team, and two of them, seniors Avery Simmons and Nic Rodriguez, had strong Player of the Year arguments of their own. Simmons led the Hounds with 120 tackles, 76 of them solo, and had an interception in the fourth quarter of the team’s championship-clinching win over West Stokes that secured the victory. Rodriguez had 114 tackles, 58 solo, and nine tackles for loss to go along with two picks. Junior Kaleb Hunter, with 60 tackles on the season and a whopping 18 for lost yardage, was the third selection out of the linebacking corps.
Up front, senior Elijah Odum also had a dominant season as a defensive tackle. Odum had 69 tackles, 25 of which came in the backfield for lost yardage. He also had six quarterback sacks and eight hurries.
Duncan earned a spot on the defensive All-Conference team as well, joining Keaton Ward as choices out of the North secondary. Duncan led the team with 16 passes broken up, had one interception, and forced a fumble while making 69 tackles. Ward, a senior, had 50 tackles, broke up seven passes and had three interceptions.
Honorable mention All-Conference selections for North included offensive linemen Jayden Edwards and Carson Mauldin, wide receiver Carson Todd, linebacker Michael Martin, defensive lineman Chase Brintle, and defensive back Clay Shumate.
North Surry placekicker Ethan Evans was chosen to the All-Conference team at that position.
Four Golden Eagles chosen
For Surry Central, offensive lineman Carter Graham and running back Martin Palacios were chosen to the team, with Ryan Martin as an honorable mention selection on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, the Eagles’ Forrest Antwine, a senior linebacker, was chosen to the first team.
Other players chosen as All-Conference included Chrissean Hardy, Maliik Douglas, Maiz Lawson, Reggie McNeil and LeShod Johnson of Atkins; Louden Hundley, Jacob Shore, Luke Bowers and Derek Jayson of Forbush; Ty Walker, Tyler Little, Jordan Smith, Landon Wilkins, Lanthan Kiser, Tyler Smith and Julius Smith of West Stokes; Terrance Westberry of Walkertown; and Tyler Fleming, Chandler Miller, Chrissiar Brooks, Rodney Phelps, Lorenzo Smith, and Milan Ruffin of Carver.
Walker, a senior linebacker for conference runner-up West Stokes, was named as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. Walker had 224 tackles during the 13 games played by the Wildcats in the 2017 season.