Friday night was homecoming at Forsyth Central, but the Bulldog offense couldn’t find its way home to the end zone.
Central struggled to move the ball throughout the game, with its two longest drives resulting in a turnover and a field goal. That suited Miller Grove just fine, as the visiting Wolverines scored four times to come away with a 24-3 victory.
“You look back and we got down here inside the 15-yard line twice and came away with no [touchdowns]. We didn’t execute, and against a good football team, you can’t do that. You’ve got to take advantage of that. We were down here twice ... and we’ve got to do a better job executing,” Central coach Chris Bennett said after the game.
Down 12-0 at halftime, Central (2-3 overall, 2-2 Region 6-AAAA) came out of the locker room on defense and forced a deep punt from Miller Grove (2-2-1, 2-2), setting up the Dawgs’ offense on its own 43.
Central’s only scoring drive of the game ensued, lasting for 14 plays and eating up nearly eight minutes in the third quarter.
Keaton Summerlin picked up a two-yard gain on a fourth-and-short to keep the drive alive at one point, but the march ran out of gas at the Wolverine 8, forcing the Dawgs to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Ryan Snyder to make it 12-3.
Miller Grove added two more scores in the fourth quarter to finally put the game away, with Cedric Knight (156 rushing yards, two touchdowns) running two yards to cap off an 81-yard drive with 5:52 to play, a possession that started off with a 35-yard run from Knight. A botched exchange on the extra point left things 18-3.
Any hope of a comeback was quickly extinguished, as Central went three-and-out on offense and Knight scored on the first play of Miller Grove’s next possession, fighting through the defensive backfield and going 53 yards for his second touchdown in 1:26 of playing time. The extra point was no good, resulting in the final 24-3 count.
Central’s final offensive possession made it all the way down to the Miller Grove 11, but a lost fumble ended the chance at a late touchdown.
Central was in the game right up until the final five minutes, with the defense playing a solid game. Central’s ‘D’ forced three punts from Miller Grove on the night and came up with two fumble recoveries in the first half.
“Our defense, that’s two weeks in a row they’ve played great,” Bennett said. “You know, we’ve got to get moving offensively and do what we’ve got to do. Defense, I’m very proud of ‘em, and the effort was there on all sides. The kids didn’t quit and I’m proud of the effort. We’ve just got to execute better.”
Field position was in Miller Grove’s favor throughout the game, as the Wolverines started past their own 30 on seven possessions, including two that started inside Central territory.
“They flipped the field on us a little bit ... and they’re a good defense. They look pretty good. They were pretty fast and athletic, but still, we have opportunities and we’ve got to take advantage of that,” Bennett said.
The result continued the pattern of what’s been something like a see-saw season for Central, with the Bulldogs alternating wins and losses throughout the first five games.
“The great thing about this, we’ve got five more to go, and hopefully we’re on the right end of the see-saw,” Bennett said.
The Wolverines jumped on top on their second offensive play of the game, as Kenneth Gilstrap (81 rushing yards) ran around the left side of the defensive line and cut upfield for a 60-yard touchdown. The extra point was no good, making it 6-0.
After Central recovered consecutive fumbles on Miller Grove’s next two possessions, the Wolverines struck again in the second quarter, with quarterback Kendrick Ings (103 total yards) fighting his way through a 17-yard touchdown run to wrap up a 65-yard drive.
A failed two-point conversion left the Wolverines up 12-0.
Central punted on all six of its first-half possessions, and had eight punts for the game.
Dustin Canon completed seven passes for 66 yards, and picked up 25 yards rushing for Central.
The Dawgs now enter their bye week halfway through the season, and have two weeks to prepare for a trip to region power Marist.
“We’re dinged up a little bit, just like everybody in our region, and this is a great time to have a week off going into the last five games,” Bennett said.
“We need two weeks to get healthy and to prepare and practice and get better for Marist.”