By Mackenzie Bates
For the Forsyth County News
Streaks are made to be broken.
Forsyth Central did plenty of that Friday night.
The Bulldogs earned their first county win in 11 years and first-ever Region 5-7A victory, topping North Forsyth 24-20 Friday night in Coal Mountain.
“It’s been a long time coming for these kids who have been through some tough losses,” Bulldogs head coach Frank Hepler said. “… Instead of quitting and transferring, they’ve stuck it out and learned how to win.”
Holding on to the lead in the fourth quarter, Central (5-1, 1-0 Region 5-7A) was pinned back twice inside their own five-yard line. Each time, the Raiders opted for a field goal but did not convert.
North (2-4, 0-1) got the ball back with 1:59 remaining in the game. Starting from its own 24, quarterback Carter Mullikin connected with Charlie Aiken in the middle of the field for a 48-yard gain. After three straight incompletions, Mullikin’s short pass to Nicky Dalmolin failed to convert, breaking the long streak of Bulldog futility within Forsyth County.
“Our coaches really prepared us for this game,” linebacker Jackson Leak said. “We knew what was coming and we did what were supposed to do to stop them.”
“We played together,” defensive lineman Alex Szakacs said. “Our offense did a good job in the first half to get us a lead, and we wanted to make sure that we did our part to help get the win.”
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Van Uum had three one-yard touchdown runs in the second quarter to pace the Central offense. He carried the ball 23 times for 92 yards.
Van Uum hasn’t thrown the ball very much this season in Central’s option offense, but connected with Jake Bretz for a 30-yard pass to help set up his first touchdown.
Down 13-10 in the second quarter, the Bulldogs forced a turnover to give the ball back to its offense. Working with a short field, Van Uum converted on a fourth and goal from the one-yard line to take a 17-13 lead.
After forcing a 3-and-out, the Bulldog’s next offensive possession saw Van Uum find Devran Orsan on a 35-yard jailbreak passing play. Van Uum polished it off with his one-yard dive to give Central a 24-13 lead just before halftime.
North came out firing on its first possession of each half. Millikin found Dalmolin on passes of 17 and 10 yards before finding Honus Wagner on a 36-yard strike to take a 7-0 lead.
The Raiders come out in the second half with Jacob Musulman recovering a fumble on the kickoff. A few plays later, Wagner rumbled his way for an 11-yard touchdown to cut the lead to four.
Coach Robert Craft said the game came down to his team not taking advantage of opportunities, especially inside five yards.
“Whether it was in the kicking game or finishing offensively in the red zone, we just couldn’t capitalize,” Craft said. “With the time on the clock (7:14 and 4:01 left in the fourth quarter) and the situations we were in, we felt like it was the right call.”
Hepler credited his coaches, his players and the community who he said played a big role in getting the school’s first win inside the county’s boundaries in more than a decade.
“Central is a great place to be,” Hepler said. “If I was a dad, I would want my son to be there, because these kids know how to play hard. They’ve lost a lot of games in the past, but they’ve fought through it and are now learning how to win.”
Forsyth Central had lost 16 straight games inside the county in 11 years. On Friday night, that streak evaporated, and now they move on to next week’s inter-county home matchup with West Forsyth.
“This feels good but, our region is a lot tougher than people think,” Hepler said. “West, Milton, South Lambert and North are very good teams. We’ve got a long way to go but, we’re very happy with this first step.”