It’s been 17 years since North Surry could boast about being a conference champion, but that all changed Friday night against Western Piedmont Athletic conference rival West Stokes. The Greyhounds capitalized on miscues by the Wildcats and won 17-7 behind the leadership of 23 seniors.
“This game was a defensive battle and I’m really proud of my kids,” said North Surry coach Danny Lyons. “After our Mount Airy loss, the kids really focused in on the remainder of the season. They didn’t want that feeling again. Our seniors have really led our team this year. It’s somebody different each week. I know those kids over there at West are young and they will be in the same position next year. Tonight we just made a few more plays on offense than they did.”
The Wildcats forced a punt by the home team to open up the game and then marched down to the Greyhounds 17-yard line where they faced first-and-10. The Cats managed five more yards, but were forced to try a field goal. Caleb Peters missed his second field goal of the year from 32-yards with 5:49 left in the opening quarter to keep the game scoreless.
On the Greyhounds next possession, they stalled on the Wildcats 30-yard line forcing the ball back over to the visitors. West used a 10-play drive and scored when quarterback Tyler Smith picked up a fumbled snap and ran in from the 3-yard line. Peters made the extra-point and the Wildcats led 7-0 with 10:10 left in the second quarter.
Both teams traded punts on their next possessions, but it was the Greyhounds who got a break when the Wildcats punt traveled seven yards giving them first-and-10 on the 38-yard line. North Surry needed six plays to score the tying touchdown. Sammy McMillian galloped in from 9-yards up the middle and Ethan Evans split the upright with 2:15 left in the half.
On the kickoff, Dustin Blevins returned the ball 41-yards giving the Wildcats good field position. West moved into Greyhound territory, but stalled at the 38-yard line turning the ball over on downs.
“We were trying to be aggressive and get some points going into the half,” said Wildcat coach Jimmy Upchurch. “We knew we got the ball to start the second half, so we were trying to make things happen. It’s unfortunate because on that fourth down play we had Sandlin (Zan) standing by himself in the end zone. Dustin (Blevins) just didn’t see him. I give them credit for their defensive pressure on that play.”
The Greyhounds took over on downs with 54-seconds left in the half and set themselves up with a first-and-goal on the 9-yard line and a pass play by Chase Swartz. He connected with Jordan Shelar for a 34-yard gain. The Greyhounds pushed ahead on a 23-yard field goal with one-second left before the half and led 10-7.
West Stokes owned the time of possession in the third quarter and kept the ball away from the Greyhounds. They moved to the home team’s 27-yard line before turning the ball over on downs and then on their next possession took a 17-play drive inside the Hound’s 1-yard line into the fourth quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Wildcats planned to convert on the fourth and goal. They attempted the same play two other times in the game and were successful. Smith took the snap, but bobbled the hand-off after a great push from North’s defensive line.
“That was the play of the game,” said Lyons. “My three defensive line seniors led that push. Alex (Gudino), Ryan (Eldridge), and Ward (Hank) did a great job and got what we needed.”
After the defensive stop, the Greyhounds drove the ball into Wildcats territory before turning the ball back over on downs with 6:42 left in the game. West Stokes had three more possessions, all ending in interceptions. The second interception led to a 10-yard run by McMillian putting the Hounds up 17-7 with 3:05 remaining in the game.
“North Surry came in with a great game plan,” Upchurch said. “I’m happy for Danny and his kids. They deserved the game tonight. They simply outplayed us.”
Neither team had much offense with the Greyhounds totaling 223-yards and the Wildcats 209. McMillian led the home team with 72-yards rushing on 19-carries and two touchdowns. Smith led the Wildcats with 68-yards on 14-carries and one touchdown, while passing for 60-yards.
On the defensive side, Avery Simmons led the Greyhounds with 12-tackles and an interception, while Nic Rodriguez added 10. For the Wildcats, Parker Pratt and Tyler Walker tallied 15-tackles each. Pratt tacked on his seventh sack of the season.
North Surry finished their season 10-1 and 6-0 in conference play. The 2017 Greyhound team is only one of three teams in their 67-year history to win 10 games. West Stokes (7-3, 4-1) will host Forbush next Friday to close out the regular season.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.