For Dustin Canon, senior night was everything he could have asked for.
Stepping out from his usual spot under center, the Forsyth Central senior spent most of Friday night at tailback, where he chewed up 166 yards of turf and scored three touchdowns in his final home game, a 41-0 Bulldog win over North Springs.
“It was a very exciting win. We were clicking on all cylinders, so it's very fun to be a part of that,” Canon said after the game.
With sophomore Cameron Moore taking most of the snaps at quarterback, Canon was freed up to be a pure running back, and seemed to take well to the role.
“We've been talking about that for a couple weeks, and we just wanted to get Cameron in there, get him some reps and show him the ropes a little bit,” Canon said.
“It was awesome, the best senior night I could ever imagine.”
Fellow senior Phillip Ray (130 total yards) also scored three times for the Dawgs (5-4 overall, 5-3 Region 6-AAAA), running for two touchdowns and catching a scoring pass from Moore in the second quarter.
On the other side of the ball, the Bulldog defense recovered three fumbles and held North Springs (2-7, 1-7) to 55 total yards in the game.
The defensive performance was just the continuation of a trend for Central, who has now surrendered three points total in its last three games.
With the offense earning over 400 yards and six scores, the result was Central's best all-around game of the year.
“We finally got to move the ball on offense a little bit. We made some adjustments there with Canon playing tailback a little bit and that worked out well, and our defense played great once again,” Central coach Chris Bennett said.
“Hats off to our [defensive] kids. I mean, I don't know how many goal line stops we've had in the last couple weeks, but it's been phenomenal. ... Overall tonight, it was really a team effort. Proud for these seniors. That's a great way for a senior night to end right there. That's a special group, and I'm proud for 'em.”
The night started off right for the Bulldogs, with senior David Esbeck coming up with a fumble recovery on the fourth play of the game.
Central's first possession ended in a punt, but Canon returned a North Springs punt all the way to the Spartan 23 to open up the Bulldogs' second offensive series, which ended on a 21-yard run from Ray with 3:44 left in the first quarter.
A Spartan three-and-out followed that score, and Canon took a hand-off up the field 54 yards for a touchdown on the first play of Central's next possession.
North Springs' Mike Chance returned the ensuing kickoff to the Bulldog 32, and the Spartans drove as far down as the 10 before losing the ball on downs.
Central then went 82 yards in six plays to take a 21-0 lead, with Moore hitting Ray along the right sideline to complete a pass, which Ray took to the house with 4:18 left in the half. The play totaled 50 yards, and Central carried the three-score lead into the break.
Late in the third quarter, Canon cut between several defenders on a zig-zag 28-yard touchdown run. Central's next defensive play ended with senior Jason Wood coming up with a fumble to give the ball right back to the Dawgs, and Canon scored his third touchdown of the game — and second in 1:29 — with a 10-yard scoring run to end a 63-yard, three-play series.
Yet another fumble right after that gave the Dawgs the ball on the Spartan 28, and Ray finished off the scoring by dragging three defenders into the end zone on a 15-yard run with 11:12 to play. The extra point was no good, leading to the 41-0 final.
With the win, Central still has a chance to slip into the Class AAAA state playoffs, but will probably have to win at state power Tucker this Friday to keep playing beyond the regular season.
Bennett said he's happy just being able to talk about a chance for postseason play this late in the year.
“It's out there, and we've got to win to have a chance,” the coach said. “It's nice [for the first time] since I've been here going into the 10th game of the year and it means something. That's special for these kids.”