East Wilkes 28, Starmount 21
BOONVILLE — Football fans at Starmount High School knew Friday night’s game between East Wilkes and Starmount was being called the game of the week, and it certainly lived up to the hype.
East Wilkes capitalized on two turnovers to keep their undefeated season alive in a 28-21 win. Prior to Friday night, the Cardinals had never defeated Starmount on the road in program history, but shook off the early nerves to come away with the win.
The Cardinals (9-0, 5-0 MVAC) stumbled in the first half, holding on to a 1-point lead in the closing seconds. As Starmount (5-4, 3-2 MVAC) was able to drive the ball to inside the 20-yard line with just two seconds remaining in the half, they opted to try for a go-ahead field goal. The Cardinals jumped on it and blocked it away.
The turning point of the night came early in the second half. Starmount started with the ball, and was driving down the field when quarterback Andrew Smythers rolled to the right and made a slightly off-balance throw that came up just short. There, junior Joah Logan jumped on the opportunity to intercept it and deny the Rams for the second-straight drive. The Cardinals then drove it right down the field for the score to go up 21-13.
“We turned that interception into points and that’s what good teams do,” East Wilkes Head Coach J.K. Adkins said. “This was a big game for us on the 1A side of it.”
East Wilkes senior Camon Bryan is a big man, and he came up big in the win. The fullback had two rushing touchdowns, and when Starmount scored to make it a one possession game late, they put it in his hands to kill the clock. The comparison of the offense from the first half to the second was night and day, and Bryan took advantage of a much improved offensive line in the second half.
“Coach Adkins said that our first half, we didn’t play to any of our potential up front, so they just really stuck their feet in the ground and just executed. Hats off to them,” Bryan said.
As Bryan said, the offense struggled on its first few drives. Then, for the second straight week, sophomores Bryce Vestal and Jared Wood connected for a touchdown. Last week, a 46-yard connection turned out to be the game-winner in a thrilling comeback win over Ashe County. This time, a 32-yard touchdown pass knotted things up. On the next drive, a Bryan touchdown run was setup by a long reception by Wood.
“Jared’s just a big weapon for us. If we can utilize him, we’ll get to our maximum potential,” Vestal said.
Vestal has been just a part of the story for this season, being thrown onto the field midway through a game against North Wilkes when their quarterback at the start of the season went down with a torn ACL.
“When it happened to [Chris Ward] against North Wilkes, I was shocked, and I hate it for him,” Vestal said. “It just feels great to have these guys rally around me like that.”
Starmount kept themselves in the game all night, but couldn’t make a defensive stop toward the end. Andrew Smythers scored the first two touchdowns of the night, as the fake handoffs to senior Brandon Prescott got the Cardinals defense to bite twice. Starmount scored with 2:43 remaining, but could not stop Camon Bryan on the run as time ran out for the Rams.
“It was a good football game, it was the type of game you’d expect when two good teams play each other, it could have went either way. We had two turnovers when they didn’t have any,” Starmount Head Coach Scott Johnson said.
East Wilkes hosts Wilkes Central Friday night with playoff implications on the line. Wilkes Central is tied with Ashe County for second one game behind the Cardinals. With the Cardinals already holding the tiebreaker against Ashe County, that means the Cardinals could clinch the MVAC Regular Season Championship on Friday. Starmount falls two games behind in the MVAC, and would certainly like to help its cause Friday night on the road against Ashe County (5-4, 4-1 MVAC).
Wilkes Central 41, Elkin 14
The Buckin’ Elks would have liked to redo the third quarter, where they allowed 27 points in a 41-14 loss to Wilkes Central. The Buckin’ Elks likely need one more win to get at least a spot in the 1A playoffs, but one win is all they have this season, period. If they don’t want their senior night to be spoiled, they’ll need to beat Alleghany (2-8, 1-5 MVAC).
Carver 47, Forbush 7
Forbush (4-5, 1-2 WPAC) couldn’t get things going at all Friday night at Carver in a 47-7 loss. The main reason they couldn’t get things going, was because Carver’s offense was busy putting up a massive number of yards. Carver totalled 454 yards, with two players rushing for more than 100 yards. Forbush’s lone score came on a 70-yard kickoff return by Hunter Chapman. Forbush is now in a three-way battle for third place in the WPAC, and hosts Surry Central (3-6, 1-2 WPAC) Friday night, before finishing the season at North Surry (5-4, 1-2 WPAC) the following week.
All game times are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.