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Football: Central seals playoff destination with overtime win over Lambert
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Forsyth Central's Devran Orsan runs in the decisive touchdown in overtime during the Bulldogs' game against Lambert on Nov. 2, 2018 at Lambert High School. - photo by Kevin O'Brien

By MacKenzie Bates

For the Forsyth County News

It’s been a season of firsts for Forsyth Central.

The Bulldogs can add another to the list, even if it took a little longer than it was supposed to.

Senior running back Devran Orsan’s 15-yard touchdown in overtime sealed the Bulldog’s first-ever win over Lambert, a 28-27 instant classic on a cold Friday night in Suwanee.

“I was anticipating (quarterback Bronson Landreth) pulling the ball to him,” Orsan said. “When I got the ball, I was kind of surprised but you have to take what you can get at that point. The offensive line is the backbone of this team and they were able to get the right read and allowed us to get that touchdown.”

The win gives Central the No. 3 state playoff seed out of Region 5-7A, and the Bulldogs will hit the road on Nov. 9 to face Archer. It will be the team’s first playoff appearance since 2001.

Lambert didn’t go away without a fight.

Tied at 21 with 1:59 left in the game, The Longhorns got all the way down to the four-yard line. Lambert would set up for what would have been a walk-off field goal by Drew Dockter, but the ball just missed the near upright to send the game to overtime.

After Orsan’s go-ahead score and facing a 3rd-and-9 from the Central 14, quarterback Peyton Rich connected with Blake Nichols for a touchdown. Longhorns head coach Louis Daniel called a timeout talk it over with his team on whether to kick the point after touchdown or go for two and he said the call was simple.

They were going for the win.

However, the conversion was no good on a pass attempt, sealing the win for the Bulldogs.

“It’s kind of hard to believe it’s over,” Daniel said. “When we executed tonight, we played really well. Our kids don’t quit and they believe in each other. 3-7? I don’t know what that means. Every one of these kids are winners.”

Central (7-3, 3-2 Region 5-7A) took advantage of two first-half turnovers and turned them in to points. Devran Orsan’s 18-yard run gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. On the next possession, Central scored on a fourth-down pass by Landreth to Dalton Edmunds to score from 10 yards out.

In a drive perfectly emblematic of the 2018 Bulldogs, the offense went 60 yards on 12 plays, capped off by a 2-run quarterback read by Landreth, which made it 21-0.

 “We’ve been undefeated many times in some different programs but this may be the sweetest record because of where we came from. I still feel like we have a lot to do to get better at Central, but these guys are building a foundation and what it takes to build a program.”

Lambert would score just before halftime on Zach Obogu’s 18-yard rush to send the Longhorns in to the locker room down 21-7.

The Longhorns (3-7, 0-5) made adjustments at the half, starting with the offense. On a 4th-and-2 on the Central 25, Lambert quarterback Peyton Rich found a receiver on the near sideline for a quick pass. The ball would then be flipped to senior tackle Sam Wilinski to convert on the “hook and lateral” all the way to the one-yard line.

Rich would plunge in the to end zone to make it 21-14.

A few minutes later, Rich connected on a few passes to Drew Dockter to help set up another score. Rich found the end zone from 8 yards out to knot things up at 21 apiece.

Central would then go back to what got them where they are by going back to their ground attack.

“Once we went back to (Orsan), you know. Sometimes this game isn’t real hard,” Bulldogs head coach Frank Hepler said. You’ve just got to keep it simple and go with what’s working.”

Orsan finished the game with 144 yards on 22 carries and two scores.

Central kept pace with their season average for rushing yards (216.8) with 208 yards on the ground. Landreth completed four passes on eight attempts for 33 yards and a touchdown.

Central now heads in to uncharted waters as they travel to Archer for the program’s first postseason game in 17 years. Hepler expects the “firsts” to keep coming.

“Only seven teams in the state are going to win their last game,” Hepler said. “We would love to be that team, and we know it’s going to be a huge task. But it’s a learning experience, and these guys are going to learn what the playoffs are all about.”

On the other side, the Longhorns say goodbye to a senior class that Daniel said helped change the culture of the program.

“These kids don’t ever quit,” Daniel said. “We kind of calmed down and started playing our game after getting down early and it showed. I’m just so proud of these kids and their effort.”