No one could blame South Stokes for savoring its football victory on Friday night. It had been a while since the Sauras had a reason to celebrate. Senior tailback Michal Phillips rushed for 191 yards on 12 carries with three touchdowns and the Sauras trounced in-county rival North Stokes 42-0 to snap a 19-game losing streak dating back to 2014.
“It just feels good to get this win after 20 games,” Phillips said. “I can’t thank the line enough. I can’t be the guy I am without the line. We just played a good game tonight.”
The Sauras’ defense set the tone late in the first quarter with a sack on North quarterback Tyler Bowman inside the Vikings’ 20-yard line. Senior middle linebacker Mason Dutton stopped Tevin Carter in the backfield on 3rd down to force North to punt.
On South’s second play, junior QB Austin Lilly pitched to Phillips, who sprinted 37 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown. Ivan Caro’s extra point try split the uprights for a 7-0 lead with 11:45 left in the second quarter.
Bowman hooked up with Ethan Bullins on a 28-yard pass play as the Vikings tried to come up with an answer. But linebacker Adam McMillian came on a blitz and sacked Bowman on second down, and two plays later, Bowman’s fourth-down throw into tight coverage fell incomplete.
South (1-2) scored touchdowns on its next three possessions and never looked back on the way to a 28-point second quarter.
“It just feels great to finally win, after last year going 0-11,” Dutton said. “I’m excited. I hope everyone else is excited. We finally came together as a team and played and got the job done.”
The Sauras hadn’t won since Sept. 19, 2014 — a 28-24 victory against Bishop McGuinness. South lost its final six contests that season and posted an 0-11 record in 2015.
Kain Thomas broke free up the middle for a 43-yard gain and two plays later, Lilly completed a 28-yard strike to senior receiver Jonah Moorefield to move the Sauras inside the red zone.
Phillips scored his second touchdown of the night from 14 yards out with 5:45 left in the second quarter. The Sauras forced a 3-and-out and unleashed Phillips on the Vikings again. This time he ran up the middle untouched for a 91-yard score and a three-touchdown advantage.
Lilly added a touchdown pass to Zach Slate with 18.3 seconds remaining until halftime that made it 28-0 after Caro’s extra point.
“We still have things to get better on, as far as football, character, learning how to win, but we are excited,” said first-year head coach Paul Hall. “Obviously, they are excited. It’s always exciting when you are playing another county team.”
South showed signs of improvement in the first two games this season against East Wilkes and North Wilkes — but the Sauras had yet to break through with a win.
It all came together against North Stokes.
Hall, who has coaching experience at Midway, Reynolds, and East Forsyth, said it felt good to get that first victory.
“It gets (the losing streak) off your back,” Hall said. “When you take a team that’s struggled the year before, or has a streak of losing, you are always in the back of your mind going ‘I hope we can at least get 1 or 2.’ That being said, I think we saw the first week and second week, that there was a lot of opportunity. We played some good teams close and we played good one tonight against North Stokes.
“They are struggling with numbers. You know, we’d have 11 on offense, then we’d run 11 out there on defense and we’ve got subs. I saw kids out there working their tail off. I didn’t see any quit in those kids.”
Dutton, McMillian and Jaylen Dowing came up with big defensive hits to halt North’s opening drive of the second half. Lilly completed first-down passes to Moorefield and Cole Rothrock, and Thomas added a short TD run with 6:55 remaining in the third quarter. Ryan Moses completed the scoring with a 24-yard touchdown up the left sideline. Caro was 6-for-6 on extra point tries.
“(Coach Hall’s) been telling us, he came here to help us win and be the great team we can be,” Phillips said. “It’s just exciting to see him get that excited for us and get the win for him tonight.”
“I love coach Hall. He’s probably one of my favorite coaches,” Dutton said. “He’s stayed with us, believed in us, and he’s got confidence in us. He got us a ‘W.’”
South piled up 332 rushing yards. Lilly completed 6 of 11 passes for 107 yards and a score. The Sauras host Alleghany in their next game.
North (0-3) was limited to just 58 passing and 18 rushing yards on the evening. The Vikings try to break into the win column when they host East Wilkes next.