KING — West Stokes and Mount Airy renewed their annual rival on the gridiron Friday night in King. The Bears overcame a halftime deficit and won 34-28 for the school’s 10th meeting between each other and the third straight for Mount Airy.
“It was a game between two really good football programs,” said first year Mount Airy coach J.K. Adkins. “I told the kids at halftime that we had to establish the run in the third quarter. We did a really good job of doing that and we were able to put some points on the board. We made several mistakes during the game that we need to correct, but it’s early in the season and we have time to do that. I thought Holden (Poindexter) played well and showed some good leadership and he is only a sophomore. Our future is bright with him.”
Poindexter completed 14 of 26 passes for 362 yards, setting a new all-time single-game passing record for the Bears for the second straight week, having thrown for 324 yards against Starmount the week before. According to research by Bear football historian Doug McDaniel, Bill Wall had held the record for 49 years, having thrown for 309 yards in a 42-14 win over Canton Pisgah on Oct. 31, 1969.
McDaniel discovered that the record had been broken after being contacted by Wall himself. When McDaniel confirmed the record had been broken for two weeks in a row, Wall conveyed his congratulations to Poindexter.
West took the opening kickoff and marched 87 yards in 13 plays for the first score of the game. Mount Airy committed four penalties on the drive enabling the Wildcats’ to keep advancing, but none bigger than the facemask call when the Cats were on the Bears’ 42-yard line. On the play, West was flagged for three different penalties and looked to face a long-yardage situation, but the facemask call offset the flags and the home team got a do-over. Four plays later, on fourth-and-eight from the 25-yard line, Wildcat quarterback Tyler Smith found Dustin Blevins in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but the Cats led 6-0 with 6:47 left in the period.
The Bears were as successful as the Wildcats on their first drive of the game. A good combination of running and passing allowed them to moved 61 yards in 14 plays while churning up the remaining time in the first quarter. Poindexter found tight end Jaylin Salter wide open in the end zone after rolling right and looking left. Kicker Jackson Tumbarello gave the Bears a 7-6 advantage with the extra point.
The Cats began their next drive near midfield after a good return by Blevins. Three more Mount Airy penalties set up Smith and Blevins again on a 27-yard pass reception early in the second period. Smith ran in the two-point conversion and West was back up 14-7.
The lead was short-lived for the Wildcats. Poindexter found Greg Greene in double coverage, and he used his speed and dashed 95 yards on the first play from the line of scrimmage. Tumbarello split the upright for a tie score at 14.
The teams traded possessions during the remaining time in the period, but it was Mount Airy who had two different scoring opportunities that the Wildcats stopped. The Bears had one drive stall on the 20-yard line and another begin on the Wildcats’ 26, but ended up close to midfield after multiple penalties by Mount Airy. Facing a third-and-long, Zan Sandlin intercepted the ball and gave the Purple Cats possession on the West Stokes 46. On the next play, Smith found Kelin Parsons streaking down the left side line for a 54-yard touchdown and a 21-14 edge heading into the locker room.
“We felt good going into the half, but knew we had let some opportunities get away from us,” said Wildcat coach Jimmy Upchurch. “We needed to keep our energy up and continuing working hard. They are a good football team and we knew they wouldn’t quit.”
Mount Airy established the run in the third with a heavy running load from running back Johnathon Smith. He carried the ball nine times in the quarter for 38 yards and a score. But it was his running that opened the passing game up for the Bears. They accumulated over 120 yards in the air and put three touchdowns on the board while holding the Wildcats out of the end zone. Poindexter added a rushing score from 11 yards out, and he found Cole Shelton on a seven-yard reception for another score. Mount Airy had a stronghold on the scoreboard at 34-21 heading to the final 12 minutes of action.
The Wildcats forced a fumble early in the fourth stanza and used that to their advantage. They moved 57 yards in 10 plays. Facing a fourth-and-10 from the 20-yard line, Sandlin caught what seemed to be an uncatchable pass over the middle for the score. After the extra-point, West had closed the gap to 34-28 with 7:31 left in the game.
The Bears used time off the clock and ran 13 plays with only one pass play in the mix and moved inside the Wildcats’ 5-yard line with 1:53 left in the game. Facing a fourth-and-goal, Mount Airy opted for the field goal attempt, which was blocked to give the home team one last chance.
Moving from the 5-yard line, the Wildcats covered more than 50 yards in six consecutive pass plays with no timeouts left. Looking at a fourth-and-two, Smith rolled out and found a receiver open around the Bears’ 35-yard line, but the pass fell incomplete and West Stokes turned the ball over on downs with 40 ticks left in the contest.
“I wish we could have converted the fourth down, because I felt like we would have had four good chances at the end zone,” claimed Upchurch. “I’m disappointed for the loss, but proud that the kids didn’t quit or give up. Football is a game of inches and tonight was no different. We got behind them several times on offense, but the ball was just barely out of our reach.”
Adkins praised his team for their last offensive drive of the game. “I know we came away with no points, but that drive was the key to the game. We took a lot of time off the clock and forced them to hurry. I’m proud of my team and our effort tonight.”
The visitors amassed 481 yards of offense, with Poindexter throwing for three scores. Johnathon Smith had 21 rushes for 102 yards and a touchdown, and Greene totaled 194 yards receiving on five catches. Tyler Smith led the Wildcats with 201-yards passing and four touchdowns. Blevins recorded two scores, while Parsons and Sandlin had one each. Amon Conrad secured 41-yards rushing on eight carries.
Greene’s 95-yard reception was the second-longest in school history, after the 98-yard catch by his brother Donavon two seasons ago.
Mount Airy improves to 2-0, while the Wildcats drop to 1-1. The Bears will host Elkin (2-0) on Friday at 7:30 p.m., while West will welcome Starmount (0-2).
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.