By Patricia Duffy
For the Forsyth County News
SANDY SPRINGS – When Adonnis Tolbert recovered a fumbled ball with 1:57 left in the game, his teammates felt a mixed sense of excitement and relief. The excitement came in knowing that Denmark High School’s second-ever win was all but secured; the relief from knowing they would escape North Springs High School victorious, despite the Spartans putting up a valiant fight.
“We were all energetic,” junior wide receiver Ze’Vian Capers said. “We just wanted to tackle him.”
It was a dramatically different outcome than what the Danes (2-0) saw last week in their first-ever win, a 43-0 shutout of Cherokee Bluff. It wasn’t nearly that easy this time around. The Spartans (1-2) provided a challenge for the young team that has no seniors on its roster, forcing the Danes to play a full four quarters to win. It was a 39-32 win that could have gone either way.
The Danes made a statement on their first drive when, backed up at their own 20 and faced with a third down, junior quarterback Ben Whitlock launched the ball to Capers for an 80-yard breakaway score.
A balanced rushing and passing attack, highlighted by the duo of Whitlock and Capers, kept the Spartans at bay through the first half. Despite several chances to make it a closer battle, the Spartans faltered by way of personal fouls and clock mismanagement. The Danes sat in a comfortable, but not too comfortable position, at halftime: 19-7.
A Spartan rally proved challenging for the Danes, even if they kept the lead. After playing a game of tag in the third quarter, scoring five touchdowns over 12 minutes of play, it was clear the Spartans, led by senior quarterback Aaron Bell, were not backing down.
The turning point, or what could have been, came on a crucial kick off after Spartan running back Kyree Green scored on a 34-yard run to bring North Springs with a touchdown of Denmark.
The Spartans went for an onside kick, which the Danes proceeded to fumble and lose.
“Not a lot you can do at that point, just keep on going and keep trying to fight,” Denmark head coach Terry Crowder said.
After recovering at the 50, Bell proceeded to move the team down the field until coming up incomplete on first-and-goal, then second-and-goal and, ultimately, the play that secured a Danes victory: Bell threw a dart to senior wide receive Zahir Nichols, and Nichols couldn’t hang on. Tolbert was there, and a turnover was all the team needed.
“We’ll get better at that little play,” Crowder said. “It’s just an onside, prebit play. We’ll get better at that. We know now there’s some things we got to do to get better, and we will.”
Denmark (2-0) showed its budding depth at receiver throughout the night with Capers, Zach Burchfield, Andrew Harvey, Nick Carozza and Teddy Davenport all serving as targets for Whitlock, who went 12 of 25 for 299 yards and three touchdowns.
The Danes’ rushing attack was highlighted by Devin DuCille’s consistent ground attack, as he scored three touchdowns on the night.
With one road test down, Crowder and his team will turn their focus to the mental game heading into week three.
“We’ve got to clean up some of these penalties and just some mental stuff we’ve got to get better at,” Crowder said. “We’ll do a lot of mental stuff next week and try to get better.”
For now, the second win is as sweet, if not sweeter, than the first.