DULUTH – The Frank Hepler era at Forsyth Central remains spotless.
After falling down 14-0 on the road, Central stormed back with a flurry to defeat Duluth 31-20 Friday night. The Bulldogs’ victory makes them 3-0 for the first time since 1997, when they won 11 games.
“I’m so proud of the kids,” Central head coach Frank Hepler said. “We believe in them, and we said our conditioning is going to help.”
Central tailback Sabrian Howard eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the second consecutive game, trotting for 227 on 32 carries and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead touchdown from 19 yards out with 11:54 in the fourth quarter, giving Central a 24-20 lead.
Blake Wood scored from 9 yards out to complete the game’s scoring, and Central intercepted a pass late in the game to put away any doubt that it would remain undefeated for another week. With each win Central’s confidence is growing.
“We want to make the playoffs,” Howard said. “This week wasn’t about stats. I just wanted to come out with a win. As long as we came out with the win.”
Howard showed his senior leadship at halftime, while the Bulldogs trailed 14-10, when he himself pepped up his own head coach.
“Sabrian told me [at halftime] ‘We’ve got this,’” Hepler said. “He assured me we were going to be okay.”
Duluth (2-2) took scored the game’s first two touchdowns when Jalil El-amin connected with Marcellos Sparks and Travion Hampton on touchdowns 6 yards and 38 yards, respectively. Central got on the board late in the first quarter when senior kicker Christian Patino knocked through a 41-yard field goal. Howard then scored from a yard out with 1:26 left in the half to pull within four heading into the locker room.
El-amin tossed his third scoring strike of the night midway through the third quarter to give Duluth a 20-10 lead, but Central would outscore the Wildcats 21-0 the rest of the way to steal the game.
With the win the Bulldogs now have a realistic shot of making it through the non-region portion of their schedule without a loss. The good fortune has come thanks in part to a 14-9 second quarter score at Dawson County that was erased due to weather, rendering the season opener a no-contest.
Central will host a Kennesaw Mountain team next week whose only victory came against hapless Osborne on Friday night. The Mustangs are just 1-3 on the season.