West Stokes and Mount Airy met for the ninth consecutive year Friday night, and the Bears capitalized on three interceptions by the Wildcats to take a 35-20 victory.
“Turnovers really hurt us,” said Wildcats coach Jimmy Upchurch. “We played better than we did last week and I couldn’t be happier with our effort. We played good enough to win against a very talented Mount Airy team, but in the end our turnovers were the difference in the game.”
After both teams traded punts to start, the Wildcats got on the board first when sophomore Chris Brown set West in Bear territory with a 61-yard punt return down to the 21-yard line. Five plays later Brown darted from four yards out for a touchdown with 4:04 left in the first quarter. The point after attempt was made by Caleb Peters giving the Cats an early 7-0 lead.
The Bears didn’t take long to respond. They went 65-yards in four plays and scored on senior quarterback Ian Holder’s 28-yard run up the middle. The extra-point by Robert Brown proved good and the score was knotted at seven with two-minutes left in the first stanza.
Each team traded punts and the Bears forced a turnover on the Wildcats when Donovan Greene intercepted Tyler Smith’s pass and returned it to the Mount Airy 43-yard line. The Bears needed six plays to score a touchdown from 10-yards out by Jonathan Smith with 3:10 left before the half.
On the pursuing kickoff, West’s Dustin Blevins raced 95-yards to pay dirt and tied the score at 14 with only 10-seconds running off the clock.
The Bears gained possession and started on the 35-yard line. They were forced to punt the ball with a minute left in the first half. With the Wildcats in a hurry-up offense, the Bears picked off their second pass of the game which set them up on West’s 16-yard line with 45-seconds left. After a two yard gain on first down, Quentin Frost raced 12-yards around the right end for the score and 21-14 halftime lead.
“That play really hurt us,” said Upchurch. “We were just trying to make something happen. I probably should have just run the ball and been satisfied with a tied score, but I got greedy.”
Coming out of the locker room, the Bears made the first statement of the half and marched 56-yards in five plays and scored on Frost’s 37-yard dash to the end zone. The point after was made by Brown and the Bears had a comfortable 28-14 lead.
On the Wildcats first possession of the half, they responded with eight consecutive run plays and scored when Smith bullied himself into the end zone from three yards out. Peters missed the extra-point, but the Cats shortened the margin to 28-20 with 5:35 left in the third.
The Bears missed a field goal attempt on their next possession and the Wildcats used the momentum of their defense to move the ball to Mount Airy’s 25-yard line at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Smith rolled out to pass on first-and-10 and Greene stepped in front of his second pass of the night, but this time he returned it 79-yards for a defensive touchdown and a 35-20 Bear lead.
West quickly drove to the Mount Airy 25-yard line again, but stalled when two passes fell incomplete on third and fourth downs with five minutes left in the game.
The Wildcats only managed 165-yard off offense because special teams put them in good position all night.
“I can’t remember a game recently where everything clicked on special teams for us,” Upchurch commented. “It seemed we started around midfield or deeper on every possession. I’m not happy with a loss, but we can take several positives from this game and use them against Starmount next week.”
Brown led the Wildcats with 87-yards rushing on 19 carries and one touchdown. Holder accounted for 187-yards of the Bears 334-yards of total offense.
Tyler Walker led the defense for West Stokes with his second straight game of 17 tackles. Parker Pratt, Tristan Carter, and Jordan Smith added eight tackles each for the Wildcats. Walker only needs six tackles to become the all-time career tackle leader at West Stokes.
The Wildcats (1-1) will travel to Starmount (0-2) on Friday and take on the Rams in a non-conference game. The last meeting between the two schools was in 2008 and West won a 26-24 game in Booneville.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.