A closer look at East Surry, Tarboro's title game opponent


Sports Writer

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

RALEIGH — As part of the annual Championship Press Conference in the Vaughn Towers at N.C. State, the 16 head coaches of the 16 high school football programs playing for a state title this weekend were honored and interviewed on Wednesday morning.

For Tarboro’s Jeff Craddock, this gathering, however delightful the occurrence may be, is old news; the Vikings are going for their fifth title during his run in charge.

For Tarboro’s opponent, East Surry, this was a first for the program. The Cardinals will compete in their first state title game this Saturday at 6 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium.

For first-year head coach Trent Lowman, it’s his first appearance in charge, though he had served as an assistant on three other teams that lost the title game.

Here is a closer look at the team and the town the Vikings will be up against this Saturday.

The basics

Record: 11-3

Last year’s record: 9-5

Mascot: Cardinals

Town: Pilot Mountain, population: Approx. 1,500

“It is a small town. It’s a football town. One of the big reasons I took the job is, I drove around the town and you could tell that Friday night football is very important to them,” Lowman said. “You can tell that pretty much everyone who lived there played there and now their kids play there. It’s just a really neat small-town atmosphere.”

How they got here

The Cardinals entered the 1-AA West bracket as the No. 4 seed, beating No. 5 seed Bessemer City, No. 1 seed Mount Airy — last year’s West representative — and No. 2 seed Starmount.

On paper, the Cardinals look like a team punching above its weight class, but they beat Starmount in August and lost to Mount Airy in the regular season, 31-28, in a game that was decided in the final minute.

Still, beating two teams with higher seeds is an impressive feat, and Lowman isn’t opposed to some fresh bulletin board material.

“Personally, I thrive in the underdog role,” Lowman said. “I like coaching from the underdog role.”

How they score

East Surry’s offense is a little unconventional in that they have two full-time quarterbacks.

“That’s how we’ve looked at it all year,” Lowman said. “We have two guys starting at quarterback. It’s not a situation where we go to a backup quarterback, we just play the other starter.”

And they have the stats to prove it: Jefferson Boaz has thrown for 1,356 yards and 20 touchdowns on 121 attempts while Stephen Gosnell has tallied 1,189 yards and 14 touchdowns on 114 attempts.

When one is under center, the other plays at wide receiver, and they’ve together combined for more than 3,700 all-purpose yards and 54 touchdowns.

The two-quarterback system had been in place since training camp, Lowman said, and at certain points throughout this season one has been emphasized at quarterback more than the other.

“They both could be record-setting quarterbacks individually or at another school but they split time evenly,” Lowman said. “They are each other’s biggest fan.”

Football family

Before heading over to East Surry and accepting the job as head football coach this spring, Lowman was in charge at Bandys High School, about an hour and a half from where the Cardinals play.

He had coached five seasons there from 2012 to 2017, initially taking over for his father, Randy. His first year at East Surry this season was done as the replacement for longtime Cardinal coach David Diamont.

No stranger

Though Lowman has never coached against Tarboro, he’s familiar with the team’s recent history, mostly because the Vikings, over the course of this decade-plus run of winning, have beaten a lot of the teams Lowman has coached against.

After all these years of hearing about them, he’ll get his chance to coach against them on Saturday.

“If you’re not aware of Tarboro, I don’t think you’re from North Carolina,” he said.