Ask any football coach. They’ll all tell you the same thing: The most important statistic in football is turnovers.
It’s hard to win when you turn the ball over. It’s nigh impossible to win when you turn it over six times, as East Hall (1-4, 1-1 Region 7B-AAA) did Friday night in a 56-0 thumping by West Forsyth (5-0, 1-0 Region 7B-AAA) at East Hall Stadium.
Led by Rusty Juneau and Trey Rood, the Wolverines picked off five passes and forced a fumble. The defensive back duo each snatched two Viking passes and helped the Wolverine defense collectively shut down East Hall’s athletic playmakers on the outside, including Kiante Young, who had 100 yards receiving last week.
“Their go-to-guy is 21 (Young), and we just tried to lock him down all night. He was our main focus,” Rood said.
“We’ve got some good athletic outside receivers, and we thought if we could get them in the corner of the end zone, we could get above them and jump up over them,” East Hall coach Bryan Gray said.
However, instead of Vikings coming down with the lob passes when it counted most, it was Juneau and Rood, as three of their combined interceptions came in the end zone.
“We saw the ball in the air and went and got it at its highest point like coach always coaches us,” Juneau said. “We just did our job and came out on top.”
“We were concerned with their athletes. They have great speed so we really focused on taking really good angles, playing smart, recognizing our keys, and making tackles,” West Forsyth coach Frank Hepler said.
While the defense was containing Young, quarterback Desmon Gardner (13-22, 111 yards, four interceptions) and the Vikings’ spread option attack, the Wolverines were pounding the ball on the ground and grinding away the clock.
Bruising runner Ben Emert (15 carries, 87 yards) and quarterback Lance Baker (4 carries, 29 yards) each rushed for two first-half touchdowns.
Baker added a touchdown pass to Ethan Shirley in the second half, and freshman Tyler Lott made the most of his four fourth-quarter rushes. Lott rushed for a 38-yard score and later broke off a 79-yard touchdown run down the right side. He ended the game as the leading rusher with 127 yards.
West Forsyth’s win sets up a battle of unbeatens this week as the Wolverines will play host to Gainesville in a key subregion matchup at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“(Gainesville) is just a great, traditional program. We have nothing but respect for them. We’re going to go out and just do the best we can,” Hepler said.
“We tell the kids to work hard in practice and do things right and the rest will take care of itself.”