BOONVILLE — The crowd held its collective breath as East Surry’s Stephen Gosnell leaped over a Starmount defender on the way to a 35-yard run. Although the ball was moved back due to a penalty, Gosnell’s jump was just one of many plays headed for the highlight reel in the Cards’ 35-12 win over the Rams.
Any doubts about new head coach Trent Lowman and the 2018 Cardinals went out the window Friday night. East Surry (2-0) came out firing from the opening kickoff and didn’t let up until the final whistle. The Rams (0-2), who lost their second game in a week to a team from Surry County, made a number of key defensive stops and interceptions. However, Starmount couldn’t keep up with East Surry offensively.
Gosnell started the game with a 40-yard quarterback keeper up the middle of the field. He followed that up with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Smith for a quick six points. Derek Sutterby’s PAT sailed through the uprights to make it 7-0 just 26 seconds into the game.
The Rams had a rocky start to their first drive. Max Swaim caught the kickoff and immediately handed it off to teammate Drake Funderburk. A miscommunication between the two allowed East Surry to stop the Rams on their own 11-yard line.
Starmount’s primary rushing came from senior running back Ethan Barnes. Barnes’ first run only went for four yards before he was met by all 6-foot-3 of Isaac Washington. QB Troy Dezern also made a series of short passes to inch the Rams up the field. Starmount faced four third-down situations on the first drive alone.
Cardinal Jefferson Boaz forced a premature pass from Dezern on third-and-long to force fourth down. Electing to go for it, Dezern heaved the ball deep into Cardinal territory. The ball was swatted away by AJ Bruton, giving East the ball once more with 6:37 remaining in the quarter.
East Surry crossed the first-down marker many times on its next drive, but penalties moved the ball back each time. Four flags were thrown on the drive to force a Cardinal punt.
Fast-forward to 2:35 left in the first and East Surry gets the ball on the Starmount 37 after a lackluster punt. Runs from Elijah Wright and Logan Ray moved the chains for East Surry. Boaz, who played QB when Gosnell’s helmet was knocked off, completed a pass to Landon Stevens to put East Surry on the Starmount 32. With the first play of the second quarter, Gosnell completed a pass to Jackson Vaughan to increase the lead to 14-0.
Starmount kept trying to get its passing game going, but it only resulted in another three-and-out. The Rams would get the ball back with 8:14 remaining in the half after an interception by Hunter Butcher.
A run from Barnes was halted by East’s Rommie Speaks. Dezern then tried for two end zone looks, but both fell incomplete. Starmount was forced to punt.
Once again, however, a Cardinal turnover gave the Rams the ball in excellent field position. Barnes took the Rams all the way to the Cards’ 1-yard line before punching it in for six points. East got the ball back following a missed PAT.
The Rams’ Eric Wiles intercepted another pass when the Cardinals were in the red zone. Stops from Victor Bacho made it look like another three-and-out for Starmount. The teams lined up for a punt, but a bad snap gave the Cardinal defense time to block the punt. Wright picked up the loose ball for a TD. East led 20-6 entering halftime.
Starmount received in the second half, but a three-and-out gave East Surry the ball soon after. Gosnell kept making short passes to Dillon Mosley to move the chains.
The Cards were faced with a third-down situation despite the fact that Ray managed to advance the ball with short runs. Gosnell connected with Boaz on a bubble screen that was only intended to gain a few yards. Quality blocking turned the short pass into a 60-yard gain for the junior. Ray ran the ball in from the 5 to bring the score to 27-6.
East forced the first Ram fumble of the game on the first play of the ensuring drive. It didn’t yield results, however, as East turned the ball over on downs deep into Starmount territory.
A costly personal foul on Starmount forced yet another three-and-out for the home team. East Surry then started on its own 47. Ray took over the ground game with three straight rushes, the last of which was a 31-yard touchdown run. Ray was tripped up around the 5, but dove into the end zone for six points. A bad snap on the PAT forced holder Kyler Jessup to change the play on the fly. Jessup found Stevens in the end zone and completed the short pass to earn a 2-point conversion.
East Surry started the fourth quarter up 35-6. Mitchell Edwards made the move from defensive end to running back and bulldozed defenders. East Surry made it into Ram territory but were forced into a fourth-and-long on the 23. Sutterby attempted a 40-yard field goal that fell just feet shy of the mark.
The Cardinals had finished their scoring for the night, but Starmount wasn’t going down just yet. The Rams made their way down the field before finally punching the ball in with just 44 seconds on the clock for a final score of 35-12.
East Surry will make their its debut next week against North Surry (1-1), while Starmount takes to the road for the first time to face West Stokes (1-1).
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith