With an opportunity to string together consecutive victories for the first time in three years, North Forsyth made the most of a visit from Duluth Friday night.
Running backs Jory Walsh and Tyler Slaton led the Raiders to 293 total yards on the ground, resulting in a 24-8 victory over the Wildcats in the Region 7-AAAAA opener.
North coach Jared Zito said his team’s win streak is a result of the work put in for the past eight months.
“This is a credit to everything they’ve done since January,” Zito said.
Prior to this season, North’s (2-1, 1-0 Region 7-AAAAA) only success came against Duluth for back-to-back years.
The Raiders earned their lone victory in 2006 against the Wildcats (0-3, 0-1), then produced a 17-14 triumph in the Cats’ den last season.
But thanks to a better start this year, North jumped all over Duluth early, thanks largely to the offensive line and vision of Walsh (13 carries, 118 yards). Walsh capped a first quarter drive by running through an open hole and up the middle virtually untouched for a 33-yard touchdown, giving the Raiders a 7-0 lead with 7:46 left in the first quarter.
Following a Duluth three-and-out, Slaton (27 carries, 114 yards) kept North’s drive going by fighting for a first down on a fourth-down try. The Raiders continued pushing down the field and Walsh found paydirt again — this time from three yards out — for an eventual 15-0 lead after a successful two-point conversion. Corey Reins added a 37-yard field goal just before halftime to pad the lead to an 18-point cushion.
North’s defense was no slouch either, forcing Duluth into punt after punt for much of the contest. The Raiders held their opponents to 32 total yards and one first down in the first half. Duluth’s special teams unit didn’t stay on the sideline long, racking up 142 yards (221 total) punting before the break.
“When you are going to run an offense with a little more ball control you need a great defense, and we talked about playing great defense,” Zito said. “The old motto is ‘Offense wins games, defense wins championships,’ and we are trying to live by that.”
After halftime, the Raiders went into a conservative and clock-consuming offense that amounted to running right, left or up the middle. North threw only three times the entire half. Slaton finally got into the end zone on a four-yard run with just more than five minutes to go in the fourth. The drive was highlighted by a tackle-breaking run by Walsh.
“I wanted to see us moving the pile and we did that,” Zito said. “Jory Walsh and Tyler Slaton are a great one-two combination and they fit our offense perfectly.”
Eli Chester completed 10-of-17 passes for 102 yards and fellow senior Jordan Totten hauled in five catches for 60 yards, including a diving grab in the third quarter for the Raiders, who were forced to punt just once.
Zito believes the Raiders will get a clearer picture of where they stand in the region this year when they travel to Peachtree Ridge to face the Lions on Friday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.