Friday night was a memorable one for West Forsyth fans, as the Wolverines defeated the West Hall Spartans on senior night 48-7.
Junior Ben Emert led the offensive assault against the visiting Spartans (5-5 overall, 2-3 Region 7B-AAA), running for 137 yards and scoring two touchdowns on runs of one yard and 40 yards.
Emert became the first running back in the Wolverines’ two-year history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season, finishing the year with a total of 1,140 yards in 10 games.
Sophomore running back Tyler Lott had a coming out game himself, rushing for 49 yards and matching teammate Emert with two rushing touchdowns, off runs of 18 and 28 yards. Sophomore running back Ethan Shirley also ran in a 22-yard sweep for a touchdown.
Perhaps more notable than how the Wolverine (8-2, 3-2) offense ran the ball was the ability of the defense to stop the air and ground game of the Spartans, holding the visitors to 174 yards for the game.
Spotted a 14-7 lead after one quarter, the Wolverine defense held West Hall scoreless for the rest of the game, allowing the offense and special teams to put 34 unanswered points on the board.
On the game’s opening drive, linebacker Nathan Teeter picked off West Hall quarterback Shunquez Stephens. That turnover led to Emert’s first touchdown run of the game. Shirley would then make it a 14-0 game, scoring on the Wolverines’ second drive.
Quarterback Stephens connected to brother Marquise Stephens for the Spartans’ only touchdown of the game on West Hall’s next drive.
The defensive front for the Wolverines was led by Chris Rubessa and Dustin Gayton, with both players acquiring 2.5 sacks apiece on Shunquez Stephens. Also getting two sacks was senior Andrew Razo. Reese Thompson and Jeff Sayer each accounted for a sack, as well.
For most of the game, Shunquez Stephens had no time to throw the ball and Marquise Stephens had nowhere to run it. Fumbles and dropped passes contributed to the Spartan’s offensive woes.
“We played great tonight. The defense really stepped up,” Wolverine coach Frank Hepler said.
“It took Chestatee scoring 20 points in the first quarter last week for us to wake up. We did not want the same thing to happen tonight.”
The Wolverines’ special teams also made big plays.
Senior Rusty Juneau returned a blocked kick 15 yards for a touchdown. West Hall’s second punt was blocked and recovered by senior Rigoberto Quintano, which led to Lance Baker’s only touchdown of the game, an 18-yard quarterback sneak.
For the Spartans, the game was out of reach by halftime, with the score 35-7 in favor of West Forsyth.
Hepler put a positive spin on a season that ended too early.
West Forsyth’s only two losses this year were to Gainesville and Flowery Branch, but that was enough to keep the Wolverines out of the playoffs in a brutally competitive subregion.
“Not making the playoffs was probably the best thing that could have happened to this team this year. It shows how good we played this season with our record being 8-2, but it also shows how hard it is to make the playoffs in Region 7-AAA itself,” the coach said. “We had a great year, though. I am just very proud.”
Hepler said he looks forward to next season, with the team’s running, receiving and defensive core still in place for the most part.
“We are losing some key players, but we have a lot of great young guys ready to step up to the challenge and get better. Our offense will probably be a lot better next year with more experience now.”