WINSTON-SALEM — Donavon Greene wasted no time giving everyone at BB&T Field a preview of what they have to look forward to.
Greene, who committed to the Demon Deacons back in May, caught a 65-yard touchdown pass from Holden Poindexter on the Granite Bears’ very first play from scrimmage Friday night in the Kickoff Classic at BB&T Field on the campus of Wake Forest University, and his team never trailed in an hour-long scrimmage against Randleman High School under game conditions. Mount Airy outscored Randleman, which went 11-2 and won the PAC-7 2A Conference a year ago, 17-7.
Two hours earlier, it was the Golden Eagles of Surry Central who were on the field, taking on Oak Grove High School out of the Central Carolina 2-A Conference. Both teams started out sluggish on offense, and the first two scores of the game were set up by miscues in the punting game, one by each team. Oak Grove led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter, but got its offense going in the second, scored twice and ended up on top in the scrimmage, 21-6.
“We’re not where we need to be, but we improved from Wednesday’s scrimmage,” said Central head coach Monty Southern. “We saw some growth tonight. We’re inexperienced in a lot of places. A lot of our kids are juniors, but they’re just up from JV football and they’re learning. Now we’ll have a one-week turnaround instead of a one-day turnaround to keep working on things.”
The Grizzlies scored first, driving on a short field after Central botched a long snap while trying to punt the ball away. Late in the opening period, the Eagles returned the favor, as David Lara blocked an Oak Grove punt and Isaiah Cave returned it 10 yards for a touchdown with 2:38 left in the first. The Eagles went for two and didn’t make it, leaving the score at 7-6.
Central continued to struggle offensively in the second quarter, but the Grizzlies found some offense and pulled away.
All five scrimmages consisted of two teams playing under game conditions for two quarters, after which the next two teams took the field. After the Eagles played Oak Grove, East Forsyth used a goal-line stand in the final minute to beat Richmond County 7-0, and it was the Granite Bears’ turn.
Mount Airy got the ball first, Poindexter found Greene in single coverage on a fade route down the visitors’ side of the field, and hit him in stride for a touchdown after just 13 seconds of play.
That set the tone for the early part of the scrimmage, as the Bears took it to the Tigers, stopping them on their first series and then marching all the way down inside the Randleman 10-yard line. Johnathon Smith romped for an 18-yard gain on the first play of the series, then receptions by Cole Shelton for nine and Greene for 38 yards followed. However, Mount Airy lost possession on a tipped ball that was picked off by a Randleman defensive lineman.
With that, the pendulum swung the other way. The Tigers unleashed junior running back Jaquan Snipes, who ran for 1,251 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, and moved the ball into Bear territory. It appeared as if Mount Airy would stop them, but on a fourth-and-7 from the 43, Randleman feigned lining up to punt and then switched into a passing formation, caught the Bear defense scrambling a bit to cover everyone, and found a man in single coverage deep downfield for a touchdown that tied the score with 93 seconds left in the first.
Mount Airy responded with a 46-yard pass from Poindexter to Shelton that gave it a first-and-goal at the Randleman 6 early in the second quarter, but the Tigers tightened up and the Bears had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Austin Tumbarello, giving them a 10-7 lead a minute into the second.
“I thought we made some untimely mistakes in the red zone that cost us points, but we’ll clean that up,” said Mount Airy head coach Jasson Adkins. “Anytime you never have to put the punt team on the field, that’s a good deal, but we need to fix some of our red zone stuff.”
Randleman ate up close to six minutes on a drive into Mount Airy territory, but a combination of an improved Bear pass rush and two penalties on the Tigers enabled Mount Airy to stop them down downs at the Bears’ 30-yard line with 5:04 remaining.
Mount Airy would have been entitled to simply run out the clock and say it got the better of a 2A power, but the Bears stayed aggressive. On third-and-8 from the Randleman 41, Poindexter found Smith in the left flat and the junior was off to the races, salting away the scrimmage with a touchdown.
Overall, Adkins saw a lot of good things, but cautioned that his first Mount Airy team still had a lot to work on.
“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, but we’re not even close to where we need to be, to be honest. We’re getting there, though,” he said.
Both teams will make their official 2018 debut next Friday night. Mount Airy travels to Starmount, while Surry Central will visit Elkin.