PILOT MOUNTAIN — The rematch between East Surry and Walkertown in the third round of the NCHSAA 1AA playoffs was a complete reversal of the script from the previous meeting between the two schools.
The Cardinals forced six turnovers in their win back on Oct. 9, but East Surry couldn’t protect the ball on Friday night and committed five turnovers that eventually paved the way for a Walkertown 28-14 upset over the West’s three-seed.
“I thought we had a good shot if we executed,” Walkertown coach Josh Pardue said. “You look at our season, and turnovers killed us in our early losses… What it comes down to is we’re becoming more confident in the offense and we didn’t press tonight.”
The other key factor in East Surry’s struggles was the battle in the trenches. No. 10 Walkertown contained the East Surry (13-1) offense through all four quarters by controlling the line of scrimmage. The Wolfpack registered five sacks and held the Cardinals to just 69 rushing yards.
Walkertown’s linemen also turned in a stellar performance on the other side of the ball. Senior running back Marcus Adams registered 205 rushing yards on 34 carries and kept the East Surry offense off the field in the second half, when the Cardinals tried to rally.
“They’re quickness on the offensive and defensive line tonight gave us a tremendous amount of problems,” East Surry coach David Diamont said. “They put a lot of pressure on our passer, and they played a really physical game.”
A quiet first quarter ended with a Walkertown score with 33 seconds remaining in the period. The Wolfpack kept the Cardinals’ offense in check for two drives before marching 74 yards in 13 plays for a 7-0 lead.
Bryce McTeer, Walkertown’s linebacker, took a direct snap three yards and carried it into the end zone to cap off the drive.
The second quarter was a similar story, as both offenses struggled until the closing stages of the half.
The Cardinals (13-1) were driving and looking to tie the game at the Wolfpack’s 24-yard line when Tyler Smith threw his first of four interceptions on the night. Walkertown took over, killed some clock, and took a 14-0 lead on a three-yard run from backup tailback Trevon Dulin.
Walkertown’s offensive line flexed its muscle in the third quarter and sustained three long drives that resulted in two touchdowns. The Wolfpack took a 21-0 lead on an 18-yard pass from Ian McKnight to Haji McDaniels with 5:14 left in the period.
The completion was McKnight’s first pass attempt of the second half, but the Walkertown quarterback found some passing room from that point forward and finished the night 9-15 for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cardinals began to find some life on their ensuing drive. Smith found success throwing across the middle of the field, and hooked up with Shawn Creed for a 13-yard touchdown throw to make it 21-7.
“I’m proud of our kids because we fought hard the whole game. We fought all night, and I’m tickled with that,” Diamont said.
Still, the Cardinals just couldn’t slow down Walkertown’s offense in key situations. The Wolfpack (9-5) seized the game’s momentum back with a 65-yard bomb down the left sideline from McKnight to Trejon Simpson for a 28-7 lead late in the third quarter.
Another passing touchdown from Smith, this time to running back Joey Ray from 33 yards out, made the score 28-14 with 6:57 remaining in the contest.
East Surry got a stop on Walkertown’s next series, but a promising Cardinal drive ended in Smith’s final interception when great coverage on Jack Shabdue caused a deflection and allowed the football to fall right into a Walkertown defender’s hands.
The visitors got a first down and then took two kneel-downs to run out the clock and earn their first victory over the Cardinals in five tries. Walkertown will take on Mitchell next week with a spot in the 1AA state championship at Wake Forest on the line.
The loss for East Surry ends the careers of 18 Cardinal seniors. It was a result that nobody in Pilot Mountain wanted, but Diamont will remember his departing players for a long time.
“They were a dedicated group of young men,” Diamont said of his seniors. “Everything we asked them to do, they did it. They played very well as a unit… They’re going to have better records than this off the field as citizens, and I feel good about that.”
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16