RAMSEUR — The Mount Airy sideline erupted as Tyler Mason ran in a 16-yard touchdown with 1:43 to play in Friday’s game at Eastern Randolph.
Mason’s third touchdown run of the night was the exclamation point of the Granite Bears’ 35-17 victory over the No. 1-seeded Wildcats. Mount Airy only needed 1 yard to convert on fourth down, but – just as they have all season – the Bears put forth the extra effort to put the game away.
“I’m happy for our kids, fans and our coaches,” said Mount Airy coach J.K. Adkins. “The guys put a lot of hard work into getting to this point, and I’m so proud of them. Our backs were against the wall; it didn’t start out great for us. We had to figure out how to recapture momentum. We stuck together and just kept plugging.”
Mount Airy scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter after going scoreless in the third. The Bears put up 223 total yards in the second half, including 196 on the ground, while holding Eastern Randolph to just 47 total yards in the final two quarters.
“There was a point that I thought – from a physicality standpoint – we overtook the game,” Adkins said. “I felt like they (Eastern Randolph) were more physical in the first half, then somewhere in there in the third quarter it shifted. We started winning battles up front and we started getting a good pass rush. We shut the run game down and that was huge. Once it shifted they just never did get it back.”
The Granite Bears (13-1) found themselves in a strange situation in the first half when the Wildcats scored first. East Wilkes was the only 1A team prior to Friday to take a lead against Mount Airy, and even then it only took Mount Airy 16 seconds to even the game up.
The athletic Eastern Randolph squad scored on its second drive of the night. Davonte Brooks, who led the Cats with 106 total yards (64 rushing, 42 receiving), ran his first of two rushing touchdowns in with 2:56 remaining in the first quarter.
Despite not trailing for long in either of the past two seasons, Mount Airy was familiar with fighting from behind in high-pressure games. Adkins said the Bears were able to draw from their experiences against Mitchell in the 2021 playoffs and East Surry earlier this season.
“It’s huge to have been in these situations and understand what it feels like to come up short,” Adkins said. “Understanding what that feels like is a big deal, and just the experience of being in these situations is a big deal. It definitely helped us tonight.”
Eastern Randolph seemed poised to score again in the second quarter after stopping Mount Airy’s next drive. The Wildcats landed on the Bears 5-yard line as part of a 6:04 drive that began on their own 3-yard line.
The next four plays saw momentum begin to shift to the visitors. Mount Airy’s Caleb Reid tackled Ervodd at the line of scrimmage on first down, then Deric Dandy took Brooks down for a loss of a yard on second down before Connor Burrell and Ian Gallimore stopped Brooks on third down. The Wildcats settled for a 23-yard field goal, increasing their lead to 10-0.
Mason, who led all players with 193 yards rushing and three touchdowns, started the next drive with a 22-yard carry off a pitch from Gallimore. The junior didn’t carry again until the end of the seven-play drive when he ran in a 26-yard touchdown.
Mason then intercepted Eastern Randolph’s Stratton Barwick, which set the Bears up to score two plays later on a Gallimore pass to Walker Stroup. Stroup hit his second PAT of the game to put the Bears up 14-10.
Eastern Randolph kept the Bears from scoring again at the onset of the second half by sacking Gallimore twice. The tackles for a loss made Mount Airy punt from its own end zone.
The Cats’ only score of the second half came on the ensuing possession as part of a short field. Eastern Randolph started on the Mount Airy 49, then immediately advanced 5 yards due to an offsides penalty. The Wildcats were in the end zone seven plays later.
The Bears faced a hiccup on their next drive. Mount Airy was moving well on the ground until the ball popped out in Wildcat territory. The Bears’ sideline called for a facemask penalty, but no such penalty was awarded and Eastern Randolph took over on their own 43.
Instead of getting deflated after the fumble, the fired up Mount Airy defense forced a three-and-out to regain possession with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
Mason forced the game’s final lead change on the first play of the fourth quarter. The running back used excellent blocking from his teammates to score a 53-yard touchdown run, and the Stroup PAT put Mount Airy up 21-17.
Eastern Randolph felt the true wrath of the Granite Bears’ defense in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats moved the chains once on their next drive, but this would be the final Eastern Randolph first down of the season.
Barwick was sacked on first-and-10, with Dandy wrapping up the quarterback’s feet and Third Floyd taking him to the ground. Gallimore sacked Barwick on the next play, then Mason provided coverage on an attempted pass to force a punt.
Reid scored a 67-yard touchdown run on Mount Airy’s first offensive play on the next drive. The blocking once again opened a wide hole for the running back, who finished with a season-high 134 yards on 10 carries by The News calculations.
Adkins applauded the Bears’ offensive and defensive lines for competing all night against a very tough and sizable Wildcat squad.
“When we’re on the practice field we get after each other pretty good, especially our linemen,” Adkins said. “Everything’s competitive and it’s just drilling fundamentals and making sure that we’re staying sharp as far as that’s concerned.
“That’s a big football team. They’re huge. They’re as big as anybody I’ve seen in 1A. We knew we had our work cut out for us, but there in the third and fourth quarter we lived inside the box and took the game over that way.”
Sacks from Dandy and Cam’Ron Webster forced another Wildcat three-and-out, which led to Mason running in his third touchdown of the game.
Eastern Randolph’s D.J. Thomas would’ve moved the chains on the team’s final drive, but he fumbled and the ball was recovered by Reid.
Due to an upset on the other side of the 1A West bracket, No. 4 Mount Airy will host No. 6 Draughn in the 1A West Regional Championship next week. This marks Mount Airy’s sixth regional championship appearance since 2006 and the team’s first since 2017.
Draughn (13-1) defeated No. 2 Andrews 42-21 in the fourth round.
(4) Mount Airy – 0, 14, 0, 21 = 35
(1) Eastern Randolph – 7, 3, 7, 0 = 17
2:56 ER 7-0 – Davonte Brooks 27-yard TD run, Yane Jaimes PAT
6:11 ER 10-0 – Yane Jaimes 23-yard field goal
2:58 MA 10-7 – Tyler Mason 26-yard TD run, Walker Stroup PAT
0:56 MA 10-14 – Walker Stroup 29-yard TD reception on Ian Gallimore pass, Walker Stroup PAT
6:04 ER 17-14 – Davonte Brooks 1-yard TD run, Yane Jaimes PAT
11:48 MA 17-21 – Tyler Mason 53-yard TD run, Walker Stroup PAT
8:23 MA 17-28 – Caleb Reid 67-yard TD run, Walker Stroup PAT
1:43 MA 17-35 – Tyler Mason 16-yard TD run, Walker Stroup PAT
54 yards passing and one touchdown on three completions
336 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 36 carries, one fumble
390 total yards
Passing: Ian Gallimore 3-of-5 for 54 yards, one touchdown
Receiving: Walker Stroup two receptions for 47 yards, one touchdown; Mario Revels one reception for 7 yards
Rushing: Tyler Mason 14 carries for 193 yards, three touchdowns; Caleb Reid 10 carries for 134 yards, one touchdown; Ian Gallimore 11 carries for 7 yards, one fumble; Mario Revels one carry for 2 yards
Kicking: Walker Stroup 5-of-5 PATs
91 yards passing on six completions, one interception
174 yards rushing on 35 carries, two touchdowns, one fumble
265 total yards
Passing: Stratton Barwick 6-of-16 for 91 yards, one interception
Receiving: Devonte Brooks two receptions for 42 yards; Nicah Taylor two catches for 38 yards; D.J. Thomas one reception for 8 yards; Ervodd Cassady one reception for 3 yards
Rushing: Ervodd Cassady 11 carries for 98 yards; Devonte Brooks 14 carries for 64 yards, two touchdowns; D.J. Thomas one carry for 22 yards, one fumble; Lucas Smith one carry for -1 yard; Stratton Barwick eight carries for -9 yards
Kicking: Yane Jaimes 2-of-2 PATs, 1-of-1 field goals (23 yards)