11/27/09 — 1-A football playoffs preview -- No. 1-ranked, unbeaten Mount Airy solid as granite

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1-A football playoffs preview -- No. 1-ranked, unbeaten Mount Airy solid as granite

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 27, 2009 9:12 AM

PRINCETON -- Football can be won in the trenches.

The Dawgs have blocked well for transfer quarterback David Gurganus, who has spread the wealth among a talented corps of receivers this season and etched his name in the school record books.

And with 17 seniors on the roster, Princeton has snapped two-plus decades of futility on the football field and resuscitated a program that once flourished in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s. The Dawgs haven't advanced three rounds in the postseason since 1979 when they lost to Robbinsville in the state title game.

Their dream-like journey continues tonight.

Fourth-seeded Princeton (10-3 overall) travels to defending state champion Mount Airy in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A (small-school) western semifinals. The top-ranked Granite Bears have won 29 consecutive contests and 42 of 43 overall since 2007.

"You can tell the kids are excited about the opportunity to go up there and play them," said Dawgs head coach Russell Williamson. "I think mentally we are in great shape to go up there and take on a challenge like this."

Mount Airy (13-0) has won 16 consecutive home games and is making its fourth consecutive appearance in the western semifinals. Princeton is coming off just its seventh postseason victory in program history since 1972.

"They have a very good football program and very good football team," said Williamson. "They've been there and done this before. They know what they're doing and this is new for us. I think we are going to give it a pretty good effort."

Princeton faces a team which throws multiple offensive sets at opposing defenses. Mount Airy could line up in either the pro-I, spread formation or shotgun -- and be effective each time.

Junior quarterback Ben Hinson directs the scheme which has produced two 1,000-yard rushers this season and 76 touchdowns. Hinson has completed 73 of 118 passes for 1,321 yards and 15 touchdowns, and thrown just five interceptions in the last 52 quarters.

Backfield mates Andy Temoney (1,305 yards) and Luke Wheeler (1,071) have combined for 44 touchdowns.

"They'll try to control the ball on you and drive it down your throat, and they do have big-play capability," said Williamson. "We're probably not going to stop them completely, but we have to contain them and make them work for what they get.

"I'm impressed with the intensity they carry. You can tell on film that they're going to play hard on every play and play hard until the end of every play. We're going to have to match the intensity and that physical part of the game."

Gurganus, the state's top passer, has thrown for 3,627 yards and 33 touchdowns this season. Patrick Jacobs has hauled in 89 catches for 1,537 yards and 11 scores. Benton Myers (829 yards), T.J. Wilson (385) and Matt Williamson (437) have combined to reel in 18 touchdown strikes.

Princeton goes against a stern Mount Airy defense that has yielded just six touchdowns the past six games. The Bears have forced 34 turnovers, logged 28 sacks as a team and held opponents to just above 10 points a game.

Stephen Hart and Wheeler have 103 and 101 tackles, respectively, for Mount Airy.

"Defensively, they're very aggressive and are good tacklers," said Williamson. "They don't miss many assignments. We can't have a lot of mistakes ... turning the ball over, giving up big plays. We have to play with them early to see what happens late in the game."