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HILLSVILLE –– Trailing by three points early in the second half, Carroll County found itself with a game-changing opportunity by having pushed Mount Airy back into third-and-goal situation, 33 yards away from the end zone.
But the Bears haven’t averaged 12 wins a season over the past nine years by not having ‘go deep’ available in their goal-line offense.
Mount Airy converted the third-and-forever play when Logan Holder lofted a 33-yard strike into the hands of a streaking Caleb Horton, sparking a run of 17 unanswered points as the Bears pulled away for a 34-15 nondistrict win Friday at Tommy Thompson Field.
“We never got enough offensive possessions, so we never really got on track,” said Carroll coach Tom Hale, whose Cavaliers had possession just three minutes in the third quarter and less than six minutes until the 6:36 mark of the fourth. “Defensively, we just gave up too many third down plays. Those types of plays, it breaks your back.”
The Cavaliers (1-1) had Mount Airy (1-2) all but stopped on a pair of key mid-game possessions but were unable to finish the defensive stand. Pinning the Bears at their own 1-yard line with a 45-yard Chase Goins punt, Carroll eventually forced Mount Airy to punt from their own 20, but the kick was muffed at the 50 and the Bears retained possession. Eight plays later, Mitchell Brown boomed a 44-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with 4:31 remaining in the half.
Carroll County got on the board two plays into its next drive when Connor Lundy hit Ethan Underwood out of the backfield and Underwood outraced the coverage for a 70-yard touchdown and a 10-7 ballgame.
Carroll defensive end Jared Haga recovered a fumble near midfield soon thereafter, and the Cavaliers moved as far as the Mount Airy 14-yard line but came up empty just before the end of the first half.
On its first possession following the Holder-to-Horton touchdown in the third period, Mount Airy overcame a second-and-20 to sustain a drive that would end when Devontae Dobson threaded his way through the right side of the line and darted into the end zone from 13 yards out for a 24-7 Bears lead less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
Brown later added a 38-yard field goal for a 27-7 lead.
Carroll County pulled to within 12 points when Lundy found Josh Blankenship in the flat from the Cavalier 19, and Blankenship hustled the rest of the way for an 81-yard score with 2:38 remaining. Lundy’s two-point pass to Duncan Reece trimmed the gap to 27-15.
The Cavaliers were able to regain possession but went three-and-out, and Mount Airy added a late score with a 28-yard E.J. Helton run.
The Bears converted a giveaway into field position for its first score of the night. Two plays after a Goins punt to the 5, Carroll safety Blake Dalton picked off Holder at the Mount Airy 40, but the Cavaliers fumbled right back, giving up 18 yards in the backwards scramble for the loose ball.
Picking up from the Carroll 42, Mount Airy converted a second-and-25 and eventually took the early lead on Dobson’s run from the 4.
Dobson would carry 20 times for 91 yards in a balanced Mount Airy attack. The Bears rushed 41 times for 179 yards and Holder was 11-for-17 for another 161 yards.
“They had good skill, and we knew they did,” said Hale. “They always have. I’m disappointed we didn’t do better defensively.”
The Cavaliers finished in the red on the ground, rushing 19 times for minus-4 yards. Lundy completed 14 passes to eight receivers for 268 yards.
Mount Airy 34, Carroll Co. 15
Mt. Airy, N.C.........7 3 7 17––34
Carroll County.......0 7 0 8––15
MA–Dobson 4 run (Brown kick) 2:19
MA–Brown 44 FG, 4:31
CC–Underwood 70 pass from Lundy (Goins kick) 3:42
MA–Horton 33 pass from Holder (Brown kick) 7:39
MA–Dobson 13 run (Brown kick) 11:17
MA–Brown 38 FG, 6:36
CC–Blankenship 81 pass from Lundy (Reece pass from Lundy) 2:38
MA–Helton 28 run (Brown kick) 0:28
First downs 17 14
Rushes-yards 41-178 19-(-4)
Yards passing 161 268
Comp-Att-Int 11-17-1 14-35-0
Return yards 27 106
Punts-average 3-38.3 3-40.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 11-111 4-46
RUSHING—Mount Airy, Dobson 20-91, Helton 4-54, Jones 8-48, Simmons 1-3, Walser 3-2, Rawley 1-(-8), Holder 3-(-10), team 1-(-2). Carroll County, Blankenship 6-9, Edwards 4-6, Underwood 3-0, Lundy 6-(-19).
PASSING–Mount Airy, Holder 11-17-1-161. Carroll County, Lundy 14-35-0-268.
RECEIVING–Mount Airy, Horton 5-87, Rawley 4-41, Dobson 1-22, Palfreeman 1-11. Carroll County, Blankenship 1-81, Underwood 1-70, Reece 5-48, Bowman 3-30, Haga 1-25, Edwards 1-6, Dalton 1-4, Davis 1-4.