DOBSON — Surry Central coach Monty Southern said it best before Friday’s game against Forbush even kicked off: high school is all about making memories.
The Golden Eagles hosted the Forbush Falcons on Friday in a battle of two of the teams tied for first place in the Foothills 2A Conference. The high stakes game was a defensive showcase that saw players go to war in the trenches, making the other team fight for every single yard.
The game was physical, in-your-face and featured a dramatic finish – the perfect environment to do as Southern said and make some lasting memories. In the end, it was Memphis Bolatto’s second interception of the night that sealed the victory for Surry Central, 17-12.
When asked how he felt after the Eagles secured their fourth-straight win, Southern – after catching his breath and settling his heart rate – said he was over the moon excited.
“I don’t know if I’m happier for these kids to experience this win or prouder of them for their performance,” Southern said. “It was a hard-fought game. It was really great team effort tonight.”
Surry Central (5-2, 3-0 FH2A) relied on its defense for much of the second half. After putting up all 17 of its points in the first two quarters, the Eagles were held without a first down in the second half.
“Offensively, we clicked in the first half,” Southern said. “I didn’t feel like they made any big adjustments in the second half, but they sure put the clamp on us. I don’t know the exact snap count, but our defense played a lot of plays (in the second half). I just kept believing in them. I just kept thinking they would make the plays, and they did.”
Forbush (5-2, 2-1 FH2A) started the second half by forcing a three-and-out then scoring on a 9-play, 4:07 drive. The Eagles stopped Forbush’s wrecking ball running back Derek Matthews on the 2-point conversion to keep the score at 17-12. As the Central players returned to the sidelines after stopping the conversion, the coaching staff emphasized just how important that stop was.
Matthews came into Friday’s game just four days removed from a superstar performance against North Surry. The senior carried the ball close to 40 times for 288 yards and four touchdowns. Against Surry Central, Forbush only recorded 268 total yards as a team.
Surry Central punted back to Forbush after another three-and-out. The Falcons started on their own 5-yard line and slowly advanced down the field with 11-consecutive running plays, but only two of those plays went for more than 10 yards. The drive started with 4:15 left in the third quarter and ended with 11:16 remaining in the fourth.
The Eagles kept Matthews from gaining a single yard on four of his carries on the drive, with the biggest such stop coming on fourth-and-3 on the Central 28-yard line. Surry Central senior Kade Norman made the first hit on the fourth-down stop.
Surry Central was quickly faced with a fourth-and-1 situation and the Eagles went for it. However, the Eagles’ run was stopped at the line of scrimmage.
“I thought we had a pretty good chance to get a first down, but the defensive lineman came in there and made a great play,” Southern said. “When Karson (Crouse) and Avery (Wilmoth) are running the ball, it’s tough to stop them from getting 1 yard. But the Forbush guy had great penetration and such a fast get-off.”
As the players returned to the sideline, Southern assured them he wouldn’t have gone for it on fourth down if he didn’t have complete faith that the defense, if needed, could contain Forbush.
“I had confidence in the defense,” Southern said. “I knew they were tired, but I wanted them to know that I believed in them because I really felt like we could get another stop.”
And get another stop they did. Central’s Graden Spurlin hit Matthews for a 4-yard loss, Norman led a flock of Eagle defenders to take Forbush’s Nathan Hampton down for a 2-yard loss, then Dante Watson deflected a pass on third down. Another incomplete pass from Forbush’s Holden Moxley turned the ball over on downs.
Forbush had four offensive possessions during the fourth quarter. The first two ended with the Falcons turning the ball over on downs, and the final two each ended with Bolatto intercepting Moxley.
Bolatto’s first interception came with 3:41 left to play. Central forced Forbush to use its remaining timeouts before punting to the Falcons with 2:27 remaining. Forbush made it all the way to the Central 46 before Bolatto picked Moxley a second time with 47 seconds left on the clock.
Bolatto’s seven interceptions this season are the most of any player in the state’s 2A division and tied for the most in the state among all divisions.
“He’s having a magical season,” Southern said. “He seems like he’s always in the right place at the right time. And listen, every person in the stands sees the picks, but he’s doing a good job at corner of helping to set the edge on some running plays too. He’s just had a great season.
“He’s just battled back and put himself in a position to make plays…and actually making them.”
Bolatto wasn’t the only Eagle with defensive highlights. Mason Cox blocked a Forbush punt in the first half, and it was recovered by Norman to set up Brian Williams’ 35-yard touchdown run. Norman had two sacks and two tackles for a loss, Enoc Lopez, Clay Whitaker and Crouse each had a sack, and Andres Gonzalez, Crouse and Spurlin each had tackles for a loss.
Surry Central rushed 41 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Krouse had 20 carries for 54 yards and a TD, Wilmoth had 15 rushes for 66 yards, Williams had five rushes for 46 yards and a TD, and Watson rushed once for 3 yards.
Wilmoth completed two passes for 38 yards. Brady Edmonds caught one pass for 30 yards, and Krouse had one reception for 8 yards.
On special teams, the Eagles recovered a kickoff after kicker Jacob Edmonds kicked straight at a Forbush player and Crouse recovered the rebound. Jacob Edmonds also went 2-for-2 on PATs and hit a 44-yard field goal in the first half.
Surry Central sits atop the FH2A Conference standings with a 3-0 record. The only other undefeated team in the conference is East Surry at 2-0, and the Cardinals are also 5-0 overall. The Eagles and Cards don’t play until the final week of the regular season on Oct. 29.
In the meantime, Surry Central has big games against North Wilkes and North Surry. The Eagles host North Wilkes on Oct. 15 for Senior Night, then travel to Toast to face the Greyhounds in a rivalry game.
”The great thing about football is you get a week in-between each game,” Southern said. “So you get time to kind of come down off this high, refocus and get ready for next week. For all 17 of these seniors next week is potentially their last home game. They’ll celebrate this weekend, but they’ll get locked in and be ready to go next Friday night.”
Forbush – 0, 0, 6, 0 = 12
Surry Central – 7, 10, 0, 0 = 17
7:09 SCHS 7-0 – Brian Williams 35-yard rushing TD, Jacob Edmonds PAT
11:06 SCHS 10-0 – Jacob Edmonds 44-yard field goal
5:09 FHS 10-6 – Derek Matthews 10-yard rushing TD, PAT no good
0:53 SCHS 17-6 – Karson Crouse 2-yard rushing TD, Jacob Edmonds PAT
6:32 EHS 14-27 – Holden Moxley pass to Nathan Hampton 34-yard TD reception, 2-point conversion no good