ATLANTA — There are few advantages of being a heavy underdog. There is one liberating thing, though, in favor of those oppressed by odds. Tactically speaking, they can do as they please without fearing flack.
Unfortunately, Forsyth Central couldn’t write a new chapter in the annals of upset history Friday, falling 37-7 on the field of perennial powerhouse Marist.
But two brow-raising play calls early in the game at least showcased Bulldogs’ coach Chris Bennett as a maverick when up against it in the bully’s backyard.
On both occasions, it was fourth down with the ball near the Bulldogs’ 20-yard line with significant yardage needed to move the chains. On both occasions, the choice appeared simple — punt. On both occasions, Bennett decided to go for it.
“Sometimes you’ve got to do unorthodox things,” Bennett said with a smile, as victorious Marist’s fight song, a common occurrence this season, played in the background. “What did we have to lose?”
Seven quick points would seem the obvious answer, particularly as the opponent is ranked fourth in the state. Yet Central Forsyth escaped punishment throughout the first quarter, in which it only trailed 3-0.
“I have to say that our defense was great tonight,” Bennett said. “If you think about it, our defense only conceded one touchdown tonight. Two were because of fumbles and the other was an interception.”
Bulldogs quarterback Dustin Canon supplied one of the bright spots for Central, threading his way trough a packed line to race clear for an 18-yard touchdown.
However, his team’s solitary score came with less than three minutes remaining of regulation, after the outcome was a foregone conclusion.
Marist’s capitalization on opponents’ mistakes was well highlighted in last week’s 38-0 mauling of bitter division rival Tucker. It was a similar story Friday night.
Second and third quarter fumbles, both special teams on punt returns, gifted the War Eagles possession on the Bulldogs’ 20-yard line. Halfback Patrick Sullivan scored the first, pushing in from one yard, with Sam McNearney grabbing the other from 7 yards.
McNearney also claimed the contest’s first touchdown, a 30-yard second-quarter interception in which he displayed the speed that tested Central all night. The game ended on a further high for Marist with Kevin Allman adding a 5-yard scoring run in the dying seconds.
Nevertheless, Bennett was still proud of his players.
“Our word of the week was ‘finished,’” he said. “And we finished the game like we started it.”