Even Hollywood’s finest might struggle to script an ending more agonizing than the closing act of South Forsyth’s 2008 campaign.
In the finale of a season marred by misfortune, the War Eagles lost a second quarterback to a serious shoulder injury, watched their opponents conduct a team celebration in the end zone and got caught up in a fight that resulted in ejections during a lopsided 35-0 loss to Mill Creek on Friday at War Eagle Field.
South coach Wendell Early described the game as a hard lesson in life for his young athletes.
“I told the kids, life is this way sometimes. ... Things happen to you that aren’t very pleasant” Early said.
“It’s a tough lesson to learn.”
Three different quarterbacks lined up under center for South (3-7 overall, 2-6 Region 7-AAAAA), but none found any real success against the Hawks’ defense.
The War Eagles finished with 98 yards passing, but the number of total yards on offense was reduced to 79 since South had a total of 19 yards lost on the ground for the night.
Sophomore signal caller Nick Belyew — thrust into the starting role after senior Brian Adams separated his shoulder in Week 4 — came off the bench against the Hawks (6-4, 4-4), but was quickly forced back out of the game after suffering a broken collar bone.
“We’ve lost 12 starters due to injury or sickness, and we started out with five sophomores on offense tonight,” Early said.
“We were down to our third and fourth quarterbacks.”
Trey Renner started at quarterback for the Eagles, but the majority of time at the position was logged by sophomore Joe Outlaw, who finished 6-for-13 for 78 yards passing.
South quarterbacks combined for four interceptions in the game.
The game started out with little notoriety, however, as the first quarter ended in a scoreless tie.
But the tone for the remainder of the contest was set early in the second period, when Mill Creek senior quarterback
Ed Russ completed a 52-yard touchdown pass to get his team on the scoreboard.
The Hawks’ entire team quickly poured onto the field and into the end zone for a celebration reminiscent of the Georgia Bulldogs’ now infamous “Gator stomp” against the University of Florida last season.
Despite drawing a penalty for the display, Mill Creek converted the long extra point to take a 7-0 lead.
The advantage doubled to 14-0 near the end of the half, after the Hawks intercepted Belyew deep in South territory.
They fumbled the ball into the end zone on the ensuing drive, but offensive lineman Austin Hagan recovered it for a touchdown with 1:46 on the clock.
Renner replaced the injured Belyew for South on the next drive, but served up an interception to Hawks’ linebacker Cody Rediger, who returned the ball back to the War Eagles’ 12-yard line.
Mill Creek increased its lead to 21-0 after receiver Chris Avery took a reverse handoff and lobbed a pass to fellow senior Zach Landis in the corner of the end zone with 55.4 seconds left in the half.
The War Eagles were further demoralized on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, as Hawks’ fullback Tyler Cierski broke off an 80-yard run to paydirt.
A fight broke out later in the period during a Mill Creek punt, resulting in two War Eagles being ejected from the game.
“We lost our cool there and had a little bit of a fracas. Hopefully that will never happen again,” Early said.
“It’s embarrassing, and I apologize to our supporters, our administration and our fans for that. Hopefully we’ll learn from it and we’ll do better.”
The War Eagles found themselves in the Hawks’ territory on more than one possession in the final quarter, but were unable to come away with points.
It was the final game for a number of South seniors, including Sean Dauenhauer, who led the team with eight tackles against the Hawks, as well as the University of Kentucky-bound Adams.
Despite the difficult end to a season that the War Eagles might like to forget, Early tried to get his team to keep things in perspective.
“The sun will come up and Mama and Daddy will love us tomorrow,” the coach said.
“We’re going to miss our seniors, [but we’ll] gather ourselves up by our bootstraps and get going again.”