In the weeks leading up to the season opener against East Lincoln, East Gaston High football coach Sean Joyce installed a game plan that, mainly, was designed to stop junior quarterback Chazz Surratt.
“Not only is he a smart kid – he’s getting recruited by Stanford and Vanderbilt – but he has the athletic ability to go with it,” Joyce said Tuesday. “He can run. He can throw. He’s got the whole package. He’s just so versatile.”
Surratt once played six positions during his freshman season when he helped East Lincoln win a state title. For the past two seasons, he’s settled into quarterback, becoming one of North Carolina’s elite players. His favorite target is younger brother Sage, a sophomore wide receiver who has scholarship offers from East Carolina and Duke.
Both brothers take advanced-level classes and have grade-point averages hovering just south of 5.0.
“They’re really good,” Joyce said. “Every team has to prepare for them.”
In August, Joyce’s pregame preparation worked – for a half. East Gaston was tied with East Lincoln and Chazz Surratt was struggling with three first-half turnovers.
In the second half, though, Surratt rallied his team to a 35-14 win. He finished with 210 passing yards and three scores. Sage caught two of the touchdown passes.
Joyce remembers how a heavy rain pelted the field in the fourth quarter. He thought it might slow East Lincoln’s passing game. Joyce changed his defense to position more defenders near the line of scrimmage.
“The whole time, I’m sitting there thinking, ‘No way they’re going to throw in this weather. We’ll send pressure,’ ” Joyce said. “And doggone it, if (Chazz) didn’t throw a strike, about 60 yards in the air. That broke our back.”
East Lincoln (5-0) coach Mike Byus isn’t surprised by anything the brothers do these days.
“They’re cut from the same mold,” he said. “Chazz can get to top speed so fast. He can go from zero to top speed in what seems like 5 yards. Sage has such a soft pair of hands. They’re special athletes.”
As a freshman in 2012, Chazz, 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, helped East Lincoln win the N.C. 2AA championship. He played six positions on offense and defense. He finished with nearly 500 yards rushing, more than 300 yards passing and more than 1,000 yards receiving. He accounted for 25 touchdowns.
Last season, Chazz led East Lincoln to a state quarterfinal berth. He set a Lincoln County record with 62 total touchdowns, rushing for 1,618 yards and 34 scores and throwing for 2,523 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Sage, 6-2 and 190, caught 55 passes as a freshman for 843 yards and 11 touchdowns, all from his big brother.
Heading into Friday’s rivalry game against Lincolnton, the Surratts are enjoying another big season.
Sage has 34 catches for 420 yards and six scores. Chazz is 98 of 139 for 1,330 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has rushed 51 times for 314 yards and five touchdowns.
Chazz, who plans to make his college decision next summer, has more than 10 Division I offers, and said his favorites are Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State.
“It’s fun and exciting to play with my brother,” Chazz said. “We always wanted to play together in high school. Sometimes, I can just give him a look and he’ll sense the same stuff I will and he will know where to be on a play.”
Sage said he has no problems with following his brother’s large footsteps.
“I like being his teammate, and I like connecting with him for touchdowns,” Sage said. “I think it’s easier following him really. He’s got some pretty big recruiting attention from big schools, and they also look at me.”