By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
It took a few extra weeks, but Forsyth Central has a second game under their belt, and my — was the wait ever worth it.
After seeing two of their first four games canceled due to COVID-19, the Bulldogs spent the four quarters of their home opener utterly dominating the visiting Cambridge Bears to the tune of a 42-14 route.
“We’ve just really been trying to ramp up the fact that we’ve got to be physical, and we’ve got to play hard — regardless of who the opponent is and what the situation is,” Central head coach Frank Hepler said. “I was very happy with how physically tough we were tonight.”
The Bulldogs controlled the game in every facet imaginable — tallying more than 300 rushing yards, scoring six rushing touchdowns, notching a pair of interceptions (both of them by senior Caydin Mowen), and physically dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
On defense, Central frustrated the Bears’ offense throughout the night, completely stymying the Cambridge rushing attack (they finished with fewer than 50 rushing yards) and keeping constant pressure on quarterback Zach Harris. Central defenders Nick Cribbs and Carson Leak seemed to constantly meet each other in the Cambridge backfield, blowing up play after play and notching constant hits on the opposing quarterback, one of which resulted in a third Central interception by senior Merek Moran.
Offensively, the Bulldogs spread the ball around efficiently, with six different rushers hitting double-digit yards, led by seniors Bronson Landreth with 63 and Eli Ruis with 62. Landreth also completed 6 of 10 passes for 57 yards, several of which occurred on crucial third-down conversions.
“We did great things on the ground and in the air — (Peyton) Streko was awesome, Solomon Gates was awesome, our offensive line up front, and Bronson did a great job of distributing the ball,” Hepler said.
Streko led the Central scoring with three rushing touchdowns, while showing off his explosive speed throughout the evening on nine carries for 47 yards. His second score came on a run in the second quarter that the Cambridge defense appeared to have bottled up, before the sophomore made a sharp cut-back to the middle of the field and darted the 15 yards to pay-dirt and breaking several tackles in the process.
“He’s a weapon,” Hepler said of his second-year running back. “He’s an extremely hard worker. He comes to practice and it’s serious-time. For a 10th-grader to have that maturity and come to work as hard as he does every day — I’m just so proud of him.”
With only a 7-point lead midway through the second quarter, the Bulldogs took advantage of Mowen’s first interception — a bobbled pass in and out of the hands of a Cambridge receiver before smacking the Central defender squarely in the chest — using only five plays and a well-executed, drive-extending hard count before feeding junior Patrick Haertel the first of his two scores on the evening on a 2-yard plunge.
After a Central three-and-out to start the second half, Mowen’s second pick of the night led to a quick series of punishing runs by Haertel and his second score of the night — a 7-yard scamper and a three-score lead for the Bulldogs.
For the remaining 17 minutes Central’s running game took over, gaining yards and extending drives at will, adding two more touchdowns for good measure — one of them coming on Streko’s third score of the night, with Ruis adding a score of his own within the final two minutes.
“Our kids are just trying to get better each week,” Hepler said. “Not having their summer camps, not having their first two games — now we’re going into region play. We’ve tried to implement this mentality once we get to the middle of (each) practice that now it’s time to ramp it up even more, and the kids have responded to that.”