The hope for Forsyth Central football almost 11 months ago was to update its look and philosophy on offense.
Head coach Shane Williamson saw a quarterback with a baseball-strong arm, a 6-foot-3 receiver with basketball leaping ability and an experienced offensive line that could provide solid protection.
After 12 straight losing seasons and plenty of run-first offenses, Williamson proclaimed it time to modernize.
But to earn its biggest victory in five seasons Friday, Central returned to football’s roots. The Bulldogs pounded the ball for 281 rushing yards en route to a 38-3 victory over Osborne in a Region 7-AAAAA game on Senior Night at home.
Central ended its season at 2-8 overall for the third consecutive year. The win snapped a four-game losing streak, gave the Bulldogs’ seniors a fitting end to their careers and sent the program into the offseason on a much-needed boost.
"These kids finally decided to buy in and do the right thing and play hard," Williamson said. "I was real proud for the seniors to go out as a winner."
Central succeeded for the most part in containing Osborne quarterback Craig Robinson. Though Robinson was 16-of-30 passing for 183 yards and rushed for 92 yards on 19 carries, Central made his night uncomfortable with constant pressure.
Charlie Hernandez had a sack. Ryan Hintz intercepted Robinson early in the fourth quarter to set up Central’s final touchdown, a 21-yard catch by Jeremiah Jones from Michael Branigan with 7:49 left in the game. Six times the Bulldogs tackled Robinson for a loss.
"We just tried to contain him," said Hintz, a junior. "Getting off blocks, stopping their receivers, good coverage. We got fired up. We just realized it was the last night of the year, the seniors’ last night they can play. We were ready."
"We did a better job than I ever thought we were going to do to be honest," Williamson said. "We watched film on him and this quarterback has really moved up and down the field against other teams. I was real proud of the way we were able to contain him."
Meanwhile, Osborne couldn’t contain Central’s rushing attack.
Not senior Jake Gorzsyca, who rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Not freshman Sabrien Howard (seven carries, 45 yards), junior Victor Peppers (three carries, 45 yards) or Branigan, who briefly switched from quarterback to running back and finished with 33 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
"Their offensive line was pretty big and physical," Osborne coach Xarvia Smith said, "and they did a good job of beating us up."
This was not the football team Central was Aug. 30 when it opened the season at North Forsyth, but it was the one it became out of necessity.
The Bulldogs struggled early on to move the ball through the air in the spread offense, and Williamson wanted Central to have a power running package available should Branigan go down with an injury. So Central became a Wing-T team.
It worked from the start Friday. The Bulldogs took the opening possession and drove 66 yards in six plays, all runs, to take a 7-0 lead after Gorzsyca scored on a 9-yard run.
Central’s next drive was more of the same — 71 yards on nine runs to set up a 29-yard field goal by senior kicker Anel Ramic that put the Bulldogs up 10-0 with 3:39 left in the first quarter.
Branigan later added a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter and a 2-yard rushing score in the third. Gorzsyca added his second touchdown from 1 yard out in the third quarter.
The seniors got a win, and the program got a glimpse of the future.
"We’ve kind of been able to develop into a Wing-T football team, which I think fits us," Williamson said. "We’ve been able to use more than one back and get some more people involved.
"I think it’s something we can look at building our program off of, because we can use that down in our feeder program."