West Stokes knew it wasn’t going to beat visiting North Surry on Friday night simply by wanting it more than the visiting Greyhounds.
On a night where both teams gave their all from start to finish, the Wildcats came away with a 43-29 victory in the Western Piedmont Conference opener for both teams by turning it into a slugging match. West Stokes (6-1 overall) rallied from an early 14-0 deficit on the legs of junior running back Devan Hairston and a dominating performance by its offensive line.
“We tried to pride ourselves on our offensive line play,” said West Stokes head coach Jimmy Upchurch. “We have a great group of kids and offensive line coaches, and they did a super job tonight.”
Following their blocks was Hairston, who carried the ball for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns on the evening. The effort was enough to trump a gutsy performance from North Surry quarterback Avery Smith, who threw for 196 yards in the first half alone, and stood in against a fierce pass rush throughout the evening.
“Avery’s a tough kid,” said Greyhounds head coach Danny Lyons, whose team fell to 4-3 on the season. “He really showed a lot of poise against the rush.”
The Hounds took the opening kickoff and drove 59 yards in 13 plays, with Smith connecting on two passes for 30 yards on his team’s first two snaps of the evening. Later in the drive, he called his own number several times with quaterback draws and keepers, before handing off to Colton Acord for a two-yard touchdown run with 6:16 left in the opening period.
Three minutes later, after the Hounds forced a three-and-out from the Wildcats, Smith eluded a rush from five different West Stokes defenders, rolled to his right, and found Acord behind the defense about 25 yards downfield. Smith’s pass hit him in stride for a 66-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead for the visitors.
The Wildcats came roaring back late in the first quarter and into the second, starting a possession on the North Surry 29-yard line after forcing the Hounds to punt from their own end zone. They scored in just three plays, with Hairston carrying the ball in from 17 yards out with 56 seconds left in the quarter.
After the teams exchanged possessions, West Stokes drove 75 yards in seven plays to tie the game at 14 on a 14-yard jaunt by Hairston with 7:36 remaining in the first half. He had set up the score by running 34 yards for a first down earlier in the series.
The teams exchanged two more scores before intermission.
Smith threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Chase Chandler on a third-and-25 play with 4:47 left in the half, giving his team its final lead at 21-14. The Wildcats responded on their next series, driving 51 yards in nine plays to score on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Alex Manley to Kameron Wall. The teams went into the break tied at 21.
The third quarter proved to be a difference-maker for the bigger, more physical West Stokes squad.
The Wildcats held the ball for most of the period, driving for a touchdown after receiving the opening kickoff to lead 29-21.
Colton ran the ensuing kickoff back 80 yards for a North Surry touchdown, but that just put West Stokes’ offense back on the field right away. The Wildcats drove 63 yards downfield as rain began to fall, and took a 36-27 lead on a four-yard run by Hairston with 3:26 left in the third quarter.
The Hounds scored on a safety in the final minute of the third quarter and had possession near midfield after the ensuing free kick, but fumbled the ball away on their first play of the possession.
West Stokes’ Alex Helvey ran 44 yards for a touchdown with 6:45 left to play to clinch the victory for the Wildcats.
Reach John on Twitter at @johncate73.