Bend, but don’t break.
If that philosophy needs a new poster boy, Forsyth Central can make a legitimate case for the job.
Central’s defense surrendered 373 yards of total offense Friday, but came up with one heroic play after another when it counted the most, leading the Bulldogs to a 7-3 victory at home against the Chamblee Bulldogs.
“It’s amazing. Our kids deserved that,” Central coach Chris Bennett said. “That’s a testament to our kids, they just kept fighting.”
Central (4-4 overall, 4-3 Region 6-AAAA) managed only 104 yards of offense of its own — including zero completions in the passing game — as a steady rain led to slippery conditions that limited what both teams could do with the ball.
The homestanding Dawgs had no trouble making plays on defense, though, blocking a field goal, recovering two fumbles and making a late interception to seal the win.
“That’s about four weeks in a row that our defense has played stellar,” Bennett said. “It’s starting to pay off with turnovers.”
Chamblee (4-4, 3-4) began the season 4-1, outscoring opponents 157-14 within those four victories. The lone defeat came in a 14-13 decision against No. 4-ranked Marist.
Chamblee was ranked No. 6 in the state in the Oct. 7 GaSports.com Football Coaches Poll, but suffered back-to-back 7-point losses to Southwest DeKalb and Tucker — both 6-1 overall — prior to Friday’s loss to Central.
Michael Gravitt set up Central’s lone score early in the first quarter by forcing a fumble that his team recovered at the Chamblee 13-yard line.
Gravitt (39 yards rushing on 11 carries) then pounded the ball up the middle on offense, setting up a 1-yard touchdown plunge from quarterback Dustin Canon with 6:20 remaining in the first quarter.
Chamblee responded with a 34-yard field goal early in second quarter, beginning a defensive struggle that lasted the remainder of the game.
Sophomore Brett Jackson appeared to be on his way to the end zone for a Chamblee touchdown after breaking off a 38-yard run later in the period, but Canon chased him down at the 2-yard line to save a touchdown.
That tackle proved to be a difference-maker on the next play, as Chamblee fumbled the ball into the end zone and Central recovered.
“That’s a great example of one player who plays every game and every snap, and he finished that [play],” Bennett said of Canon. “That was really probably one of the biggest plays of the game as far as [affecting] the scoreboard.”
The visiting Bulldogs attempted a 56-yard field goal on a later drive as the final seconds ticked off the clock before halftime, but Gravitt blocked what would have been an already difficult kick to make under any circumstances, especially on a rain-soaked field.
Central’s defense went right back to work in the third quarter, forcing Chamblee to turn the ball over on downs when it came up short on a 4th-and-2 at the Central 16.
Canon (32 yards rushing on 14 carries) flashed his playmaking ability on offense when his Bulldogs took over, pulling down a high snap with one hand on second down and breaking tackles to turn what initially looked like a guaranteed loss of yards into a seven-yard gain. Central eventually drove into Chamblee territory before being forced to punt.
“I’ve got to give credit to our offense tonight,” Bennett said. “We moved the ball when we had to and we [burned] some clock. We kept [Chamblee’s] offense off the field.”
Chamblee quarterback Garrett Williams (126 yards rushing on 18 carries) flashed his own skills on the ensuing possession, driving his team down to the Central 38 before breaking a 31-yard keeper run down to the 7.
A false start penalty on the visiting Bulldogs helped Central make a successful defensive stand that forced Chamblee into a 25-yard field goal attempt, one that sailed wide left early in the fourth quarter.
When Central’s offense got the ball back, Canon resumed his work. Following an encroachment penalty on Chamblee, Canon split the middle of the field for a 21-yard run out to his team’s 41.
Central ran off as much clock as it could before John Taylor dropped a 44-yard punt inside the Chamblee 1-yard line with 2:42 remaining in the game.
“He punted the ball great tonight in terrible weather,” Bennett said.
Chamblee made its way into Central territory with under a minute left, but Jon Freeman intercepted a Williams pass inside the 10-yard line and ran back to the 20 with 27.3 seconds left. Since the visiting Bulldogs only had two timeouts remaining, they couldn’t prevent Central from using a kneel-down to drain the rest of the clock.
“We’ve told [our guys] all year long, ‘hard work pays off,’ and it did tonight,” Bennett said.
Central is home again at 7:30 p.m. Friday against North Springs.