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Cardinals Soar to Conference Championship

By Rich Habegger, 11/12/19, 9:30AM EST


It took only 12 seconds for the East Surry Cardinals to show the Mt. Airy Granite Bears that the Bears were in for a long, cold Friday night.  After the opening kickoff went into the end zone for a touchback, the ball was placed on the East Surry 20-yard line.  On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Cardinal quarterback Jefferson Boaz took the snap and hoisted a long pass downfield to fellow 2020 UNC commit Landon Stevens that went for an 80-yard touchdown.  After the successful PAT, East Surry led 7-0 with only twelve seconds off the clock.  Boaz’s simple explanation of the touchdown throw was “Landon runs a 4.4 (40 yard dash) so I’m just going to put some air under it and hopes he runs under it.”

Things did not get any better for Mt. Airy the remainder of the first half as the defending Northwest 1-A conference champions were unable to contain the undefeated Cardinals who now reign as the conference champions following their 42-10 victory.  East Surry scored touchdowns on all four of its first half possessions and held a 28-7 lead at the break after limiting Mt. Airy to a single touchdown in the first 24 minutes of play.

All of East Surry’s first half drives were lengthy--over 60 yards, but the Cardinals covered the distances quickly.  Their second score came with 7:38 remaining in the first quarter on a 6-yard rush by Boaz that culminated a 6-play, 67-yard drive.  Following the PAT from kicker Derek Sutterby, the Cardinal lead was 14.  After stopping the Granite Bear’s next drive on downs at the East Surry 28, it took eight plays for the victors to cover the seventy-two yards to pay dirt.  The score came on Boaz’s second touchdown pass; this time it was an 11-yard completion to Dillon Mosley.  Following another successful PAT, the lead was 21-0 with :23 left in the first period. 

Mt. Airy received the ensuing kickoff and produced its only scoring drive of the half. Beginning at its own 23-yard line, the Bears utilized several nifty runs from its outstanding running back, Johnathon Smith, and finally put their first six points on the scoreboard.  Fittingly, Smith took the pigskin into the end zone on a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line.  The conversion was good cutting the deficit to 21-7.  However, the Bears were unable to stop the Cardinals after the score as East Surry moved 74 yards in only three plays to move the score to 28-7.  The touchdown came on a 38-yard strike from Boaz to Mosley, the second time these two hooked up for a score.  It seems Coach Lowman of East Surry had a feeling that Mosley might be ready for a big game.  Jefferson Boaz said that Coach Lowman came to him during his pre-game throwing and said, “You feel good don’t you?  Boaz replied to the coach that he did to which Lowman added, “Well Mosley feels better.”

Mt. Airy had one final first half opportunity to cut into the East Surry lead, but the Cardinal defense sacked quarterback Zeb Stroup for an 11-yard loss after the Bears reached the Cardinal 29-yard line.

Coming out of the locker room, turnovers suddenly became a problem for Mt. Airy and thwarted any chance for a comeback.  On the initial play of the second half, Smith fumbled deep in his own territory.  Cardinal linebacker Hoyt Bullington recovered, and East Surry began their possession with a first-and-goal at the Mt. Airy 10-yard line.  Stephen Gosnell ran 6 yards for a touchdown on third down to up the Cardinal lead to 35-7 with 10:03 still left in the third period.

Mt. Airy refused to fold and promptly drove down the field behind the running of Smith and reached the Cardinal 30.  Unfortunately for the Bears, Smith fumbled on the next play after gaining substantial yardage, and East Surry recovered the loose ball at its own 6-yard line.

The Bears’ defense held East Surry and forced a short punt that gave Mt. Airy the football at the Cardinal 34.  After moving to the Cardinal 22, the Bears again turned the ball over --this time when Stephen Gosnell intercepted an errant pass at the 2-yard line.  Again the Mt. Airy defense stiffened, and East Surry had to punt from deep in its own territory.  The Cardinal punt was blown dead at the East Surry 39 giving Mt. Airy excellent field possession once again. The Bears earned a first down at the Cardinal 26 just as the third quarter came to a close.  Disaster struck the Bears on the first play of the fourth quarter as Johnathon Smith went down with a leg injury after his carry and was unable to return to the game.  Mt. Airy moved to the East Surry 22, but turned the ball over on downs after an unsuccessful fourth-and-six pass.

After gaining possession at its own 22, the Cardinals scored one final time covering 78 yards in a 4-play, one minute drive.  Stevens earned his second touchdown of the night on a 7-yard reception from Boaz--Boaz’s fourth touchdown pass of the game--and East Surry held a 42-7 lead. For the evening, Stevens ended with 219 receiving yards on eight receptions.

The Bears continued to grind and mounted one final drive that featured several strong runs by backup running back Cameron Moore.  Facing a fourth-and-eighteen from the East Surry 18, Mt. Airy kicker Jackson Tumbarello converted a 35-yard field goal, which ended the scoring for the evening.

When discussing the Cardinal’s undefeated season and looking ahead to the state playoffs, Coach Lowman remarked, “It hadn’t hit yet that we are undefeated, but our goal is to play through December since we started.  I guess we’re 11-0, but we got four more.”

The 1-AA State Championship Playoff brackets were announced on Saturday and both the East Surry Cardinals and the Mt. Airy Granite Bears received first round byes.  On November 22, East Surry will host the winner of the first round matchup between Avery County and Starmount.  On that same evening, the Granite Bears will await the victor of the Mountain Island Charter vs. Community School of Davidson contest.  If East Surry and Mt. Airy win their second-round games, the two schools will meet again on November 29 at East Surry.

Coach Lowman (Post Win Over Mount Airy)

Jefferson Boaz (Post Win Over Mount Airy)