By Kurt Main
For the Forsyth County News
It was the proverbial roller coaster of a football game Friday night at Forsyth Central, as the Bulldogs dropped their Region 6-7A opener to Gainesville 33-28.
Central coughed up a fumble on its first drive of the game, giving Gainesville the ball at the Bulldogs' 12-yard line. A couple of plays later, Gainesville quarterback Baxter Wright took the ball in from 9 yards out, giving the Red Elephants a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, however, Peyton Streko took the ball at the 10-yard line and blew past the Red Elephant special team on his way to a 90-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.
After the Bulldog defense forced Gainesville to punt, the return was fumbled deep in Bulldog territory. But Caydin Mowen stepped in front of a pass and made his fourth interception of the year to return possession to Central.
After several good runs and short passes, quarterback Bronson Landreth scored on a 1-yard sneak into the endzone giving the Bulldogs the lead 14-7. On the Red Elephants' next possession, the Bulldogs had Gainesville fourth-and-long, but Wright scrambled and eluded several defenders for a 20-yard first-down run.
Jonquavies Drinkard scored from 16 yards out to tie the game 14-14.
The Bulldogs got the ball back but were unable to convert on third down and had to punt.
After a couple of quick-hitters by Wright to his outside receivers, and a huge scramble down to the 16-yard line, Gainesville was able to punch it in from 3 yards out by Naim Cheeks, giving the Red Elephants a 21-14 halftime lead.
Gainesville received the second-half kickoff, but Central forced the Red Elephants to punt.
The Bulldogs turned right around and gave it back again on a fumble at the 36-yard line.
The Red Elephants were able to drive downfield and scored a 1-yard touchdown to increase their lead to 28-14.
On Central's next possession, Streko again had another big play when he torched the Gainesville defense for 46 yards, but the drive stalled and the Bulldogs gave the ball back.
This time, however, Central's defense held and forced another Red Elephant punt. Then, the Dogs held on to the ball and drove it down field, capping it with a 6-yard TD run by Eli Ruis.
With only a touchdown difference, Central went to work after another three-and-out. Quarterback Graham Long, who came in for injured Landreth, hit Noah Chol for an unbelievable 46-yard touchdown catch as he was sandwiched between two defenders, tying the game 28-28.
With little time left on the clock, Gainesville drove the ball downfield into field goal position.
With 22 seconds remaining, the Red Elephants snapped the ball to kick the potential game-winning field goal, only to have it blocked and then picked up by Streko who took it all the way back for the apparent game-winning touchdown.
But much to the disbelief of the fans, players and coaching staff, an extremely controversial personal foul call was made against the Bulldogs, and the play was brought back.
Not only that, but the penalty moved the ball 15 yards closer. This time there was no block and no miss, as Giovanni Martinez's 30-yard field goal allowed Gainesville to go ahead 31-28.
The Bulldogs got the ball back on the kickoff, but after the snap went over Long’s head, Central recovered and was tackled in the end zone for a safety, making the final score 33-28.
"This team four or five years ago would have lost this game 56-0, but this is a different team with a different attitude," Central head coach Frank Hepler said. "This team does not get the respect that it deserves, but the wins will come and so will the respect.”
“I just feel bad that this game had to end the way that it did. But we’ll be back at practice and we will get better and we will win.”