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Raiders ready
Support builds for North in playoffs
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North Forsyth head coach Jared Zito talks to his players during practice Wednesday afternoon at the school. The Raiders face Lassiter tonight as the state playoffs begin. - photo by Emily Saunders
If you’re going

• Who: North Forsyth (7-3) at Lassiter (10-0)

• What: first round of the state Class AAAAA high school football playoffs

• When: 7:30 p.m.

• Where: Lassiter High School, 2601 Shallowford Road, Marietta

• Tickets: $8 at the gate

• Next: Winner faces Etowah or South Gwinnett

This week’s heavy rain couldn’t dampen the spirits at North Forsyth High School.

In their first state football playoff game since 2005, the Raiders (7-3) will visit the Lassiter Trojans (10-0) tonight.

For North, the fourth seed from rugged Region 7-AAAAA, it’s also the first postseason berth for football in the state’s highest classification.

“The student body has been there all year long,” said Nathan Turner, the school’s assistant athletic director and director of football operations.

“[The excitement has] only grown every week. It’s sort of like a mushroom. It’s gotten bigger and bigger, and our kids are excited.”

Turner said the school is optimistic, likening the enthusiasm to that of the 2005 playoffs, when the underdog Raiders upset a top seed in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs.

“Our kids feel focused and feel they can win,” he said.

Ryan Marks, a senior left tackle with the Raiders, has been with the program through its lean times. The Raiders posted consecutive 1-9 seasons when he was a freshman and sophomore, before improving to 5-5 last fall.

He said the campus has rallied around the team this season.

“It’s great to see the school behind us,” Marks said. “That kind of was down on us a couple years. It’s great to see the improvement that we’ve [accomplished] and it’s great to see the fan base we’ve got.”

Marks said the whole school is excited.

“They’re asking questions ... everybody’s real enthused,” he said.

Jake Edwards, senior class vice president, is also on the school’s spirit crew, Purple Reign, which formed last year.

He said the senior class is getting “pumped up” for the big game. The crew is decorating a bus to shuttle underclassmen who can’t drive to Lassiter.

The group is also working out a caravan to Cobb County and plans on tailgating.

“It’ll be cool everybody coming into the stadium at the exact same time,” Edwards said. “We have a couple chants that we do when we come into the stadium.

“We’re just all getting really pumped up and excited for our senior year.”

Edwards said excitement about the Raiders has grown.

“I can see a lot of people that used to be really cynical of the team and used to kind of talk bad about our own school are starting to really instill some school spirit, and that’s kind of what we’ve been missing the last few years,” he said.

Edwards also noted that he’s proud of this year’s senior class for getting the rest of the student body involved. He said North’s faculty has helped as well.

Assistant Principal Randy Herrin said happy rumblings have been heard throughout the week during announcements about the game, which he said is “a long time coming.”

“I was here in 2001 when they went to the [state Class AAA semifinals in the Georgia] Dome,” Herrin said. “I was at the middle school. But of course, I knew all the kids and it was really exciting for the school.”

A pep rally, complete with the school band, cheerleaders and football team, was scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Raider Valley.

It was the first time Herrin could recall the entire student body attending such an event.

He hopes for a good turnout tonight.

“I think we’re going to get a good following and I hope we get a good crowd over there,” he said. “They’re peaking at the right time.

“When you go into the playoffs it’s the best time to be playing the best football and I think they’re ready.”

Sports writer BJ Corbitt contributed to this report.