The thought of Wednesday night lights might not get a high-school football fan’s blood pumping, but after a nine-month offseason, any action is worthwhile.
In a final tune-up before their first varsity season, West Forsyth took on visiting Lumpkin County in a Wednesday night scrimmage session, the Wolverines’ first opportunity to put on the pads opposite another team.
“It was just good to go out against another opponent,” coach Frank Hepler said. “Lumpkin’s got a good team and just to see someone different, I could see the intensity level really pick up on the guys, because they knew we weren’t going out to hit on each other.”
West led the visiting Indians 17-14 after the first half, which featured both teams’ top players and was timed and scored as a normal game.
After forcing the Indians into a three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, West went to work on offense. Set up on Lumpkin’s 49-yard-line following a solid punt return, West assembled a six-play drive that ended with junior Ben Emert (54 first-half yards, nine carries) running four yards for a touchdown.
Lumpkin struck back with a 65-yard scoring drive, before West went 65 yards on their second possession to go up 14-7 with under a minute left in the opening quarter. (Excepting punt returns, possessions automatically began at the teams’ own 35.)
West’s second score came when senior quarterback Lance Baker (4-for-5 in the first half, 99 passing yards) hit sophomore Ethan Shirley (72 total first-half yards) for a 47-yard scoring toss with 47 seconds left in the opening period.
Lumpkin put together a long 16-play drive that ate up most of the second quarter and ended up tying the game again, but the Wolverines got the final word before halftime, booting a 35-yard field goal to end the official scoring.
Hepler was pleased with his team’s offensive balance to that point, gaining yardage through the air and on the ground.
“We’ve got a pretty good mix with those guys. ... We’re pretty multiple on that offense and that’s what we want to continue to try to do. Try to spread it out,” the coach said.
There was also plenty to critique heading into the team’s season opener at North Forsyth next Friday.
“We can’t make [the same] mistakes against North, they’ll dominate us if we can’t finish off some of the things that we need to do, so we’re going back to work and practice next week and try to get ready for that North game. We’re really getting ready for our entire season, just that being the first step,” Hepler said.
The second half was a different animal, with the scoreboard wiped clean for some situational play.
Coming out of the locker room, both teams got two opportunities to line up at the opponent’s 15 and try to score in an overtime simulation. Lumpkin converted both possessions for touchdowns, with West scoring once on an eight-yard fling from Baker to Reese Patton, and losing one possession on a fumble.
After that, the final two quarters featured a mix of backup and junior varsity players, with a running clock and no score kept.
Hepler said that part of the night was also important, giving his coaches a good opportunity to see younger and less-experienced players in a game situation.
“The biggest thing here is I’m trying to build some depth. We’ve got a lot of young kids. The bulk of our team is juniors and sophomores, and if we can build that depth and build competition within our team, that’ll make us better,” he said.