PILOT MOUNTAIN — The intensity of the East Surry-West Stokes football rivalry builds every year, and the 2018 edition did not disappoint.
An approaching storm moved the game from Friday to Wednesday to ensure the Cats and Cards could go at it. East fought to overcome a 12-0 halftime deficit by tying the game with 1:23 remaining, but a 51-yard touchdown and ensuing interception by West capped off another instant classic. West took the game 26-19.
The Wildcats struggled offensively for much of the game. East Surry’s front seven held the Cats to just 191 total yards. West was held to just 21 yards rushing on 32 attempts, went 2-for-15 on third down conversions, and only had seven first downs.
East Surry, on the other hand, finished with 371 total yards, consisting of 262 rushing and 109 passing. The Cardinals had 18 first downs, zero offensive penalties, and had two fourth-down conversions.
What the game came down to was turnovers. Though having to punt on the majority of their drives, West didn’t turn the ball over one time in Wednesday’s game. East, on the other hand, lost five fumbles and had two interceptions.
The game began with back-to-back punts, with East receiving the opening kickoff. The Cardinals got the ball back on their own 17-yard line, but quickly escaped the danger zone. Quarterback Stephen Gosnell scrambled from his own 17 to the Wildcats’ 47. Gosnell would lead all rushers with 101 yards.
The Cardinals used Logan Ray on the ground and Dillon Mosley in the air to move the chains. East was faced with a third-and-6 situation and put the ball in the hands of Gosnell. The junior QB ran up the middle but was halted by West’s Tanner Tyndall. Just out of field-goal range, the Cards went for it on fourth-and-4. Gosnell once again ran up the middle, and was again stopped in his tracks by Tyndall for a turnover-on-downs.
West was nearly forced to punt again before Tyler Smith targeted a streaking Kelin Parsons. Though Parsons didn’t catch the ball, East was called for pass interference and the Wildcat drive continued.
West made the most of its second chance by charging into Cardinal territory. Runs from Chris Brown and Amon Conrad set up Smith for a 36-yard touchdown pass to Parsons with just 22 seconds remaining in the first quarter. A missed PAT made it 6-0.
East Surry’s misfortune began on the following kickoff. Quincy Smith had the ball punched out by a Wildcat defender on the kickoff. Tyler Hunter scooped the ball up at the Cardinal 36.
Joshua Joyce sacked Tyler Smith in the second quarter’s opening minutes to force another Wildcat punt. Starting on their own 20, Ray gained four yards on an inside hand-off. The next play, Gosnell scrambled and had the ball stripped. It was recovered by West’s Seth Saunders with 10:30 left in the half.
Momentum continued to shift as Tyler Smith connected once again with Parsons on a long TD pass. A failed 2-point conversion left the score at 12-0.
East Surry marched down the field in hopes of cutting into the Cats’ lead before halftime. A Gosnell pass to Landon Stevens saved the Cardinals from a three-and-out. Mitchell Edwards revived the fullback trap for a first down as well. Another pass to Stevens put East inside the 10-yard line.
Ray carried East to the one-yard line, but a dropped snap on third-and-one moved the ball back. West’s Luke Mickey, who tied for the most tackles (13) of both teams, chased down Gosnell and brought him down near the 10. East attempted a 32-yard field goal but it sailed right to give West the ball back.
The Wildcats’ following punt hit a Cardinal player on the way down. Dalton Brewer picked the ball up to give West another possession.
Another three-and-out gave East one more chance to score before halftime. With just 1:12 remaining, however, West’s Chris Brown stripped Ray and it was recovered by Cortlen Dutton.
West struck first in the second half when Dustin Blevins ran 94 yards with the opening kickoff to increase the Wildcat lead. Caleb Peters converted on the extra point to make it 19-0.
Back-to-back three-and-outs gave East Surry the ball on its own four. With Jefferson Boaz under center for the Cardinals, Ray led the Cardinals away from a safety. On a Boaz pass to Mosley, West Stokes was flagged for a face mask and an additional personal foul to move East close to midfield.
It took nearly four minutes of game time, but the Cardinals finally made it into the red zone. Fast-forward three plays and East faced fourth-and-goal on the six. A pass attempt to Mosley was broken up by West’s Parsons and Palmer Elliot for another turnover-on-downs.
It wasn’t until the 2:20 mark of the third quarter that East Surry got on the scoreboard. Edwards punched the ball in on fourth down for six points. Edwards did the same on the 2-point conversion to make it 19-8. East Surry cut the lead to 19-11 after Derek Sutterby converted a 33-yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Cardinal comeback was running out of time. Even after forcing a three-and-out, West’s Zan Sandlin intercepted Boaz.
Tyler Smith ran a number of QB keepers to run the clock down, while Brown moved the chains. Brown had a 19-yard touchdown run, but it was called back due to a holding call. The Wildcats settled for a field goal attempt with 5:31 remaining, but it came up short.
Gosnell and the Cardinals charged down the field, but faced a series of roadblocks. The Cardinals had to convert on fourth down after a sack from Devin Stanley. Gosnell punched the ball in with just 1:29 left to play.
Still down 19-17, East went for two. Gosnell faked the hand-off and ran left. He leaped for the end zone and was met by Brown. After the aerial collision, Gosnell fell into the end zone to tie the game at 19-19.
After battling back from a scoreless first half, the Cardinal faithful were as wild as ever. That excitement soon turned to dismay Tyler Smith connected with Parsons on a 51-yard touchdown pass with just 41 seconds left.
East Surry tried to tie the game once again, but there just wasn’t enough time. The Cardinals made it to the Cats’ 44 with 26 seconds remaining. Two incomplete passes made it third down with just 14 seconds on the clock. Gosnell and Mosley tried to run a trick play to target Boaz downfield, but it was intercepted by Zan Sandlin to end the game.
Both East Surry and West Stokes now sit at 4-1 on the season. The Wildcats begin conference play next week when they host Walkertown. East Surry will play its final non-conference game against Ragsdale at home the same night.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith