On a night where Wilkes Central Head Coach Ron Turner didn’t feel the Eagles had their best game, they still found a way to win on Friday in Moravian Falls.
Wilkes Central defeated Surry Central 38-14 at Wes Steele Stadium behind a stifling defense and a career-high 215 rushing yards from JoRaye Morrison.
The Eagles bounced back from a tough loss to Alexander Central a week earlier to move to 2-1 going into next Friday’s nonconference finale at Watauga.
“It was a weird game. We did a lot of good things but we made way too many mistakes; I don’t feel like I had them ready to play and that’s my fault,” said Turner. “The good thing is, we know we’re making progress when we can win 38-14 and everybody feels frustrated.”
Adding to the Eagles’ frustrations was committing 11 penalties for 105 yards but Morrison’s strong night jump started their offense.
The junior rushed for two touchdowns and also hauled in a touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Pack as time expired in the first quarter to give Wilkes Central a 13-0 lead.
Both of the Eagles’ first quarter touchdowns were on fourth down conversions.
Morrison’s first rushing touchdown was a three-yard run on the Eagles’ first offensive drive of the game. The other score came on a 50-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
When asked after the game about his career-high for rushing yards, Morrison felt his performance last week — where he had a career-high 31 carries for 185 yards — was better.
“I really didn’t think much of it because I honestly felt like I played better last week than I did this week,” said Morrison.
The junior also gave ample credit to his offensive line, which paved the way for 487 yards of offense, including 365 on the ground.
“It was amazing. I have the best o-line in this conference and I love them more than anything and they make me so proud to have them,” said Morrison. “I’ve been with these guys forever, since I was in middle school, elementary school and I love being able to play with them.”
Wilkes Central found the end zone on the ground again in the second quarter when Trent Hunt took the pitch off a jet sweep and raced 69 yards to pay dirt.
Surry Central (0-3) produced just one first down in the first half that didn’t come as a result of a penalty.
But Junior Palacios had a 75-yard kickoff return to cut Wilkes Central’s lead to 19-7 at halftime.
Cortlan Clark had initially taken the opening kickoff for the second half 70 yards to the end zone but it was called back due to a penalty. Two plays later, however, Pack scored on a 22-yard run.
Pack also had a big night, recording 102 rushing yards on 16 carries and 111 passing yards on 5-of-10 passing with a rushing score and a passing score.
Surry Central (0-3) continued to fight back and made it 25-14 after three quarters with a 22-yard score of its own from Daniel Valenzuela.
The Golden Eagles had chances to make it a one-possession game when it had first-and-ten from the Golden Eagle 38 late in the third quarter. But a holding penalty, followed by an incompletion and a 10-yard completion from Maisen Holt to Karson Krause made it third-and-11 from 37.
That’s when Andre Wilson came up with a big sack of Holt, resulting in a 9-yard loss and forced the Golden Eagles to punt.
The Wilkes Central defense held the Golden Eagles to just 128 yards of offense and one score. Wilson had a pair of sacks while Dominic Haney also had a sack.
“The defense did a great job. Offensively, we’ve just got a lot of stuff to clean up; we just kept stopping ourselves all night with penalties and mistakes,” said Turner. “Coach (Monty) Southern does a good job, he gets the most out of his kids, they play hard but we’re not going to be able to beat some of the teams that we’ve got to beat making those kinds of mistakes.”
The Golden Eagles forced a Wilkes Central turnover on the next drive, but once again, another Golden Eagle penalty – this time, a 15-yard one – forced them into second-and-long.
Wilson came up big again when he broke through the backfield and stuffed Palacios for a 3-yard loss.
“I came out tonight, feeling like I had something to prove. I’ve been overlooked for a long time so I felt like it was time for me to come out and do what I was supposed to do,” said Wilson. “When it came time for us to make a big play tonight, I felt like the entire defense stepped up and made some big plays in some big moments.”
Clark, who had intercepted Holt in the third quarter, put the Eagles comfortably ahead with two minutes left in the game on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Alex Nichols.
Nichols paced the Eagles at receiver with three catches for 66 yards.
Notes: The Golden Eagles face another tough challenge this Friday when they travel to the always powerful East Surry. Surry Central committed 70 yards in penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the fourth quarter that led to the ejection of Head Coach Monty Southern. Morrison had his second career 200-yard rushing game on Friday (his first game in the regular-season finale against East Wilkes last year). In JV action, Wilkes Central dropped to 0-2 with a 20-14 defeat at Surry Central on Thursday night in Dobson.