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Slaton, Hester lead Raiders past Cougars
North Forsyth's Jory Walsh is tackled after a carry against Chattahoochee on Friday in Coal Mountain. With the win, the Raiders moved to 4-5 heading into the season finale this week. - photo by Jared Putnam

Tyler Slaton scored the go-ahead touchdown and Steven Hester's third interception sealed the victory as North Forsyth rallied from a halftime deficit for a 31-27 win over Chattahoochee on Senior Night at Raider Valley on Friday.

“Unbelievable” was North Forsyth coach Jared Zito's initial comment.  “It was a good game to win, but not fun to be in,” he continued.

With his third rushing TD of the game - a powerful seven-yard surge across the goal line -, Slaton gave the Raiders (4-5 overall, 3-4 Region 7-AAAAA) a four-point cushion with 1:48 left.  But the Cougars still had time and the dependable arm of Brendan Cross.

Things began to look bleak for North after Cross suddenly became untouchable, eluding Raider tacklers on a run for 15 yards, an even bigger gain on his next carry and then finding a receiver who appeared to complete a 12-yard catch out of bounds. 

But the disappointment was put to rest on third-and-15 from the 15 when Hester made a sliding interception against Cross (14-of-29, 269 yards) on the 4-yard line, causing the stadium and Raider sideline to erupt with excitement.

“At some point we are going to have to make a play if we want to get this win,” Zito stated.  “And Steven made it for us.”  

With 20 seconds left, North downed the ball, ending a two-game losing streak.

Despite falling behind, 24-13, at the half, the Raiders outscored the Cougars 18-3 in the final two quarters.  

Eli Chester (224 yards passing) found Jordan Totten for a 50-yard TD, reducing the margin to five with 9:16 left in the third after a failed two-point conversion.  Following an interception by Hester and a 42-yard catch by Matt Hansard, North Forsyth temporarily jumped in front again, thanks to a one-yard score by Slaton but another missed two-point try for a 25-24 edge nearly seven minutes later.

With 8:06 to play, Connor Coons nailed a 44-yard field goal and the Cougars regained control, 27-25.  After an empty possession, North forced a punt and started from its own 20-yard line with 4:09 left.  To start the drive, Totten (six receptions, 157 yards) made a 25-yard grab, Jory Walsh added nine on an option play to the right and Slaton picked up five more on the same play to the left and a first down.  

After a timeout, Zito used his only trick (halfback option) on this Halloween night, calling a disguised run by Walsh, who found a wide-open Totten for a 31-yard gain and first-and-goal from the 7 before Slaton scored the game's final points.

“I'm proud of the way we played in the second half since that's been our Achilles' heel,” noted Zito, who has constantly stressed to his team the importance of playing four quarters.”

The Raiders will wrap up the 2008 season with a visit to Northview on Friday.