Eagles struggle in loss to E. Wilkes

By Kristian Russell - krussell@elkintribune.com

RONDA — On Friday night, the East Wilkes Cardinals were able to bounce back after a tough opening loss last week to East Surry. East Wilkes hosted Surry Central in a game that saw the Cardinals take an early lead and never look back. When the final whistle blew, East Wilkes had taken a 36-6 win over the Golden Eagles.

“It feels good to finally get on top and have a good game,” said East Wilkes head coach Jonathan Wilmoth. “We were able to execute and take care of the football, so it was a great feeling.”

The first drives of the game saw both team stall out before reaching the end zone. The Golden Eagles received the ball first and were able to take it down the field, but their drive ended on the 41-yard line. East Wilkes was able to start its drive on its six-yard line, but two false starts hindered the Cardinals from making it past the 15.

Surry Central was able to get the ball back with 5:37 left in the first quarter. On the first play, Ryan Martin was able to drive up the middle for a four-yard run. The yards gained by Martin were lost on the next play as Brayson Church saw a gap in the offensive line and sacked Maisen Holt for a 10-yard loss. On third-and-15, Church and Jesse Howell teamed up to take down an Eagle in the backfield. With several yards of field to cover before the first down, the Eagles punted, and East Wilkes started its drive from its 45.

“I thought our kids played hard,” said Wilmoth. “We are still botching some assignments but they played hard and I asked them to do two things — take care of the football and play assignment football. I think they did that. We do need to cut down on penalties, we have too much of that going on right now. Besides that, they played hard and they executed, which is all you can ask for as a head coach.”

Jayveon Ross gained 10 yards and a first down with a run down the sideline. East Wilkes picked up another first down on the next play, as Caeden Howell found the hands of Church, who took the ball inside the Surry Central 40.

Things kept going East Wilkes’ way on the drive. Sean Sidden had an 18-yard run which took the ball to the 5-yard line. However, the Cardinals were penalized for a block in the back, which moved the ball back to the 20.

It took East Wilkes four more plays before they were able to reach the end zone. On third-and-seven, Howell handed the ball off to Ross, who ran down the sideline and scored on a 17-yard touchdown run. The extra point by Blaine Wagoner was no good, but the Cardinals had a 6-0 lead with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.

“It felt really good, especially not playing but one half last week,” said Ross on his three touchdowns. “I was excited, I was hoping (the first touchdown of the season) would come sooner, but I got it and it feels good.”

Surry Central started off the second quarter with a drive that only accumulated five yards. The first play was an incomplete pass, which was followed up with a run by Holt for two-yards. From there, Martin had a 5-yard run, then Holt had a 4-yard run. The next few plays saw the Eagles get pushed back, and they were penalized with a 5-yard flag, then Holt fumbled in the backfield for another loss of five yards.

On third-and-17, Holt tried to pass the ball down the field, and as the ball was about to hit his player’s hands, Sean Sidden was able to jump up into the air and swat the ball away for an incomplete pass. Sidden’s stop forced the Eagles to punt the ball.

“It felt good. I was worried when I went up because I have been battling an injury, but it was good,” said Sidden on his defensive play. “The defense felt good tonight. We have had big changes, but everything is coming around and I think it is going to be good in the long run.”

As the second quarter went on, the Cardinals didn’t waste any time in scoring another touchdown. Howell handed the ball off the Ross, who was able to put the Surry Central defense in a tizzy with a slanted run. Ross found an open space in the defense and the rest was history. It was an 80-yard touchdown run which gave East Wilkes a 12-0 lead. The Cardinals went for a two-point conversion, and Howell found the hands of Church, who put two more points on the scoreboard.

“It was a combination of plays,” said Wilmoth when asked if there were any key plays in the game. “We hit some big plays, but those are for the highlight reels. It was the little plays in between. Our offensive line started playing better and I’ve always said once they jell, we are going to be okay.”

Surry Central was able to take the ball down the field on its next set of plays, but once again the drive stalled. The Eagles reached the 14-yard line, but faced fourth-and-seven. A pass to Holt was complete and it looked to be a first down, but a flag was thrown for a hold on the Eagles, who ended up turning the ball over on downs.

“I felt like we started great and we took the ball down on the first drive,” said Surry Central head coach Monty Southern. “I felt like we had some positive plays and then we just kind of stalled out. From that first drive on, East Wilkes just totally outplayed us. We had some good plays — that goal-line stand there at the end, and we scored the touchdown late. For the most part, they were better prepared than us, quicker than us, stronger than us, and that is what it looked like on the field.”

East Wilkes was able to capitalize, as the Cardinals used five plays and drove 86 yards for another touchdown. Howell passed the ball to Trey Lambert who took the ball in for a 53-yard score. The extra point by Wagoner was good, and East Wilkes had a 21-0 lead with less than two minutes left in the half.

“It feels good, especially coming off of the loss from last week,” said Howell on his first win as a varsity quarterback. “It feels awesome. The throw to Trey was pretty good and a big key moment, Trey was clutch.”

East Wilkes was able to put up 205 yards in the first half, while Surry Central was held to just 39.

The Cardinals opened the second half with another score. Howell ran the ball in from four yards out. The extra point was good and East Wilkes led 28-0 after just 75 seconds of the third quarter.

Less than two minutes later, the Cardinals were back in the end zone.

Surry Central had possession at its 34. Holt tried to find the hands of one of his receivers, but Ross was in perfect position for an interception. He returned the ball 34 yards for his third touchdown of the night to put the Cardinals up 34-0 with 8:45 left in the third.

East Wilkes set up like they were going to kick the extra point, but things took a turn once the ball was snapped. Howell was the holder and instead of placing the ball for a kick, he got up and found the hands of Sydne Waldrup, who brought the ball in for the two-point conversion.

In the final quarter, Surry Central was able to put up its first touchdown of the season with 24.9 seconds left in the game.

Martin ran the ball for four plays in a row before finding the end zone for a touchdown. The two-point conversion was no good, but Surry Central had broken its 2018 scoring drought just as the game was ending to make the final score 36-6.

“We have just got to keep working. We are fairly young, (and) we are really young up front,” said Southern. “We have just got to keep working, growing and getting better. We are going to what we always do on Monday — watch film and see where we can pick it up and where we can get better.

“As coaches, we probably need to do a better job with our game plan, and and make sure that things we are trying to do will actually work. Hopefully the kids will stick together, buy in and will get a little momentum.”

The Eagles (0-2) will host Wilkes Central (0-2) this coming Friday night, while East Wilkes (1-1) travels to Forbush (0-2).

Cardinals start fast, steamroll Surry Central

By Kristian Russell

krussell@elkintribune.com