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Raiders, War Eagles pin playoff hopes on rivalry game
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Forsyth County News

Political candidates aren’t the only rivals in an important face-off this week.

After a week away from their own campaigns, it’s back on the trail for South Forsyth and North Forsyth, as the two teams clash in a critical matchup tonight in Coal Mountain.

The meeting between the Raiders and War Eagles carries all the usual implications for campus pride and rivalry bragging rights, but there’s an added wrinkle when the War Eagles swoop into Raider Valley — for the loser, the state playoffs will look like little more than a pipe dream.

Along with identical 2-3 records overall through the first half of the season, North and South are both 1-2 in Region 7-AAAAA. While tonight’s winners will find themselves treading water in the region, the loser will fall into a deep 1-3 hole with only four games left.

“Absolutely, we need to win this game in order to keep any hopes of postseason play alive,” South coach Wendell Early said.

Sophomore Nick Belyew will record his second straight start at quarterback in place of injured Brian Adams for South, after a successful outing against Northview two weeks ago.

North coach Jared Zito says the Raiders are ready to take the field after the bye week.

“It has been nice to rest and get healed up a bit, for sure. Honestly, I think everyone is just ready to play a football game again,” Zito said.

South could be considered the incumbent in this case, as the War Eagles have beaten the Raiders in every meeting since 2001, a streak lasting four games.

But Zito thinks the teams look about even in this year’s race.

“I think we are similar in talent and both teams are coached well,” North’s coach said.

Early thinks the Raiders do some good things on both sides of the ball, taking particular note of the offensive backfield, with Eli Chester under center and Tyler Slaton and Jory Walsh running the ball.

“North is a very tough, hard-nosed group of players,” Early said. “They have two very good running backs and they come right at you up front. Their quarterback throws the ball well and runs his play action passes extremely well.

Defensively, they do a great job of reading blocks, playing off blocks and pursuing the ball.”

Zito sounds equally impressed in talking about the War Eagles.

“South does a good job of running the spread offense. They have a nice screen package and do a [good] job of taking what the defense gives them. Defensively, the 3-5 is always difficult to prepare for because there are so many variables to how they will line up or play you,” he said.