BOONVILLE — East Wilkes football coach Monty Chipman experienced a strong sense of déjà vu following the Cardinals’ 22-16 heartbreaking loss at Starmount on Friday.
As he summed up the frustrating defeat to the school he once played for, Chipman’s mind went back to 2004 and another East Wilkes-Starmount barnburner in which the Rams rallied to beat his team.
On that night five years ago, the Cardinals moved all the way to the Starmount 1 on their final series but couldn’t punch it in. On Friday, East Wilkes advanced from its own 6 yard line to the Rams’ 15 in the final four minutes before running out of time and downs.
In both cases, Chipman walked off the field with a feeling his squad should have won a game against a favored opponent.
“We were in the same place with Elkin last year (an overtime defeat) and Starmount 2004 and same here,” Chipman said. “The kids played hard. I can’t ask them to play any harder than they played tonight. We’ve got 21 guys who played as hard as they can. But a loss is a loss.”
Though it was little consolation to East Wilkes afterwards, Chipman’s Cardinals fared far better than many expected against the Rams, the Mountain Valley 1A/2A coaches’ pick to win the league this season.
Starmount came into the contest having won its previous two contests by comfortable margins, while the Cards were in the midst of a two-game losing streak, including a 35-14 defeat at home against Elkin on Sept. 11.
But East Wilkes had obviously put those defeats behind them by Friday’s kickoff, taking a 13-7 lead into halftime. Star quarterback Micah Bryan accounted for both touchdowns, on a 12-yard run in the first quarter and a 1-yard plunge in the second.
Even after Starmount quarterback Jake Barr scored from 5 yards away early in the third quarter to give the home team a 14-13 lead, the Cards didn’t buckle.
They answered with a drive that produced a 34-yard Steven Gregory field goal for a 16-14 advantage.
East’s confidence surely grew after stopping two Starmount drives inside its 20-yard-line. On one series, the Rams couldn’t capitalize after keeping the ball for 15 plays and getting as close as the 5. On the other series, a Cardinal fumble at the 20 set Starmount in prime position, but the Rams went four-and-out.
But East Wilkes couldn’t sustain a drive midway through the fourth quarter to kill the clock. And Starmount struck in just one play after getting the ball back following a punt near midfield.
On first down from the East Wilkes 48, running back Israel Murphy got behind the Cardinals’ defense after a play-fake and hauled in a touchdown pass from Barr.
The only person near the streaking Murphy downfield was teammate Kyle Weatherman. It was one of the few times all night that East defenders seemed out of position.
“We had some tendencies that we knew we had and they know we had,” Starmount coach Scott Johnson said of the play. “Throwing on first down is something we don’t do a lot. We thought we’d come back and take advantage of the throw back (play), that’s what it’s called. (Israel) just out ran him and Jake had a really great throw. It worked out.”
Still, Starmount had to sweat out one more East Wilkes possession.
Things didn’t start well for the Cardinals after a muffed kickoff return and penalty pushed them all the way back to their own 6. But using rushers Bryan, Aaron Bauguess and Jesse White, East Wilkes methodically moved the ball into scoring position. A 16-yard gallop by Bauguess with 55.7 seconds left put the Cardinals at the Rams’ 23.
Starmount bottled up the next three plays, and the Cardinals went backwards to the 29.
Facing fourth down with two seconds left, Bryan rolled out to the right hoping to complete a miracle pass into the end zone. But the senior couldn’t find anyone to throw the ball to. He eventually took off for the end zone himself, but the Rams cut him off at the 15.
Game over. Déjà vu just starting for Chipman, whose old coach at Starmount — the legendary B.W. Holt — attended Friday’s game.
“We had our chances,” Chipman said. “It should have been our ball game. We just don’t take the bull by the horns when we need to finish it off with four minutes to go ... Our defense played good tonight but we kept giving them second chances. You can’t give a team like that second chances of winning a ball game. You’ve got to finish them off.”
Starmount coach Scott Johnson, another of Holt’s proteges, said the win was another big step for his young squad, which is replacing 14 seniors from last year’s Final Four run. The Rams trailed at the half, got the lead back, then lost it again. Even after not scoring twice inside East’s 20 yard line in the fourth quarter, Johnson’s squad kept battling.
“I think we were not quite as focused as we should have been,” Johnson said. “We’ll learn from that and move on. Maybe (we overlooked them) after playing so well for two weeks and thinking we were a little bit better than we are.
“I still think we can be really good before it’s all said and done. We’ve just got to learn and keep growing.”
M.J. Bryant scored Starmount’s first touchdown on a 4-yard run late in the first quarter. Murphy led the Rams’ rushing attack, gaining 84 yards on 13 carries. Barr rushed 10 times for 50 yards. Bryant added 33 yards on eight carries.
Bryant caused the East Wilkes fumble in the fourth quarter that set the Rams up at the Cardinals’ 20. The junior forced a second fumble in the game and made 11 tackles, including three for negative yardage.
Barr led Starmount with 12 tackles. Murphy had 10 tackles.
East Wilkes’ Bryan led all rushers with 110 yards on 18 carries. Bauguess was held in check overall, ending up with 43 yards on 17 totes.
Gregory’s 34-yard field goal in the third quarter was a career long. Chipman said he didn’t hesitate to kick at that point of the game even though the Cards don’t typically try a lot of long-range field goals. He wanted to get the lead and turn things back over to his defense.
“We were down and that put us up,” Chipman said.
Starmount improved to 3-2, 2-0 in the MVAC with the win. The Rams travel to Ashe County this Friday. The Huskies pushed Elkin to the limit on Friday night before falling 19-14.
East Wilkes 16
Friday • at Boonville
East Wilkes 7 6 3 0 — 16
Starmount 7 0 7 8 — 22
EW — Micah Bryan 12 run (Steven Gregory kick), 6:18
ST — MJ Bryant 4 run (Steven Hemric kick), 2:22
EW — Bryan 1 run (kick failed), 5:11
ST — Jake Barr 5 run (Hemric kick), 8:28
EW — Gregory 35 field goal, 5:18
ST — Israel Murphy 48 pass from Barr (Barr run), 4:43
Rushing: Israel Murphy 13-84; Jake Barr 10-50; MJ Bryant 8-33; Fondae McDaniel 1-21; Blaine Nicholson 4-16; Kyle Weatherman 1-7; Nick Kimmer 1-5; Hurt 1-1; TOTALS: 39-217
Passing: Jake Barr 3 of 13 for 95 yards - 1 TD; Nick Kimmer 1 of 3 for 5 yds; TOTALS: 4 of 16 for 100 yds - 1 TD
Receiving: Israel Murphy 1-48; Tanner Vestal 1-27; Blaine Nicholson 1-20; MJ Bryant 1-5
Total Yards: 317
Rushing: Micah Bryan 18-110; Aaron Bauguess 17-43; Jesse White 4-12; Caleb Shoupe 2-5; JJ Jackson 1-2; TOTALS: 42-172
Passing: Micah Bryan 2 of 7 for 28 yds; Steven Gregory 0 of 1 for 0 yds; TOTALS: 2 of 8 for 28 yds
Receiving: Trendon Harris 1-25; Caleb Shoupe 1-3
Total Yards: 200