By Noah Rubin
There are low-scoring games and there are defensive battles.
This one was definitely the latter.
Denmark took down visiting North Forsyth on Thursday, 20-17, in a game that featured seven turnovers, two defensive touchdowns, and a blocked PAT.
Denmark head coach Mike Palmieri said his team had some extra motivation coming into the game, thanks to the Maxwell Ratings game projections.
“I thought it went great,” Palmieri said. “We knew we could wear them down. We’re pretty tough. We played some tough games before this. We took it a little personal that they had us as 19-point underdogs coming into this game, supposedly. But our kids play hard. That’s what we do.”
Palmieri’s team has found its identity in hard work, and he feels it’s what made the difference late in the game. After North took the lead following Drew Aucoin’s 7-yard TD run in the fourth quarter, Denmark responded when Jacob Nelson found Che Ojarikre for a 74-yard touchdown that ended up giving the Danes the victory.
“I just think we were tougher than they were down the stretch,” Palmieri said. “We’re building a culture of refusing to lose here. Working hard, outworking in the weight room, and what we do as a program really pays off come fourth quarter.”
The Denmark defense forced four turnovers in the game. Kenon Dicks intercepted the final pass of the game that sealed the victory, but it was the plays made in the first half that made the biggest impact.
Jelani Miller and Treston Jordan had pick-sixes on back-to-back plays for the Danes in the second quarter. Those were the only Denmark points until Ojarikre’s late score. Drew Clare also recovered a fumble in the first half.
Jordan was proud of the way his team fought to get the win.
“We played great as a team,” Jordan said. “We all came together at the end. It was a big stop by the defense. Kenon Dicks made a great stop. Offense played their heart out. Coaches did their job. That’s us. We won that.”
Jordan, a safety who is committed to Georgia Southern, makes a huge impact for the team, and Palmieri is grateful to have him.
“He’s the man,” Palmieri said. “He does everything for us. He gets us lined up right; he’s a leader. We’re blessed to have him.”
Jordan reiterated Palmieri’s stance on how hard the team works. He knows that their hard work is what swung the score in their favor tonight.
“Everyday we work hard,” Jordan said. “We got a lift tomorrow. That’s how we know we work. Constantly grinding and trying to be the best.”
Denmark wasn’t alone in making defensive plays.
The Raiders forced three turnovers of their own, starting with Chandler DeBlois’ interception that he returned to the 4-yard line, setting up Patrick Corrigan for the score.
David Adesina had a second-half interception that allowed Aucoin to get his rushing touchdown. Just before the end of the first quarter, Dylan Lyerly poked a ball free that Collin Miller recovered. Miller also blocked the PAT after Denmark’s second pick-six.
North head coach Robert Craft praised the team’s effort.
“Disappointed in the outcome, but not disappointed in my kids,” Craft said. “They played their tails off. So did Denmark. Great region ballgame. We knew that’s how it would go down. Come down to the very end, probably. Just a few points separating it. Two great defenses. Unfortunately, we made a few more mistakes. In games like this, that’s what it’s going to come down to. But so proud of my guys. They played their butts off. Did everything we asked them to as far as their effort.”
The defense continued its dominant season and showed no indication that they intended on slowing down. They’ve allowed only five offensive touchdowns through five games this season.
“Our defense played lights out,” Craft said. “They gave up very few points tonight. So proud of how hard they played. They played like that all year, so that’s what we’re used to, and we knew we’d get it out of them again tonight. Unfortunately, we just made other mistakes that cost us.”
Denmark [3-1, 1-0 Region 6-7A] will look to continue its success Oct. 1 as the Danes travel to play at Central.
North [3-2, 1-1 Region 6-7A] will try to rebound that same day when West Forsyth comes to town.
As for Jordan, he’s going to be looking to bring more interceptions to the house for the stout Denmark defense.
“It was amazing,” Jordan said. “It was my first one. I’m blessed.”