By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Football: Pope prevails past Central in defensive slugfest
A group of Forsyth Central defenders, from left, Austin McNeil, Camden Leak, Carson Leak, Jayce Todaro and Toby Legerra tackle Pope wide receiver Jason Trainer during Wednesday's scrimmage. - photo by David Roberts

MARIETTA — Many of David Rooney's questions won't be answered until Forsyth Central has played one or two regular-season games.

Still, the Bulldogs' scrimmage Wednesday against Pope provided the first-year head coach with a glimpse into this year's squad.

While Central fell 20-6, several players auditioned at running back, quarterbacks Drew Mullvain and Koby Balthazor faced live action, and the Bulldogs' defense proved to be a tough unit.

"We have a lot of players who are competing for spots still," Rooney said. "We've got four regular-season games before our region games start, so we're still going to give people opportunities to show what they can do."

Mullvain took the first series of snaps at quarterback, then rotated with Balthazor for the rest of the first half. 

Patrick Haertel earned the lion's share of carries out of the backfield, with Malachi McElroy, Marcus Brown and Kole McGlumphy also carrying the ball. 

Haertel figures to score plenty of touchdowns this season, but it was his younger brother who accounted for Central's score Wednesday. Late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Drew Reid uncorked a pass that ricocheted off a Pope defender and into the arms of Cade Heartel, who was standing in the end zone.

Central wasn't able to get much going offensively. Part of that could be attributed to soggy field conditions and a constant drizzle that lasted into the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs also played without a couple of starters along the offensive line.

"We had a couple of starters that sat out totally in the first quarter -- I think one sat out the first half. So, that makes a huge difference, we feel," Rooney said. "Then there's things we've just got to figure out what our identity is going to be, then we'll go from there."

Running back Phillip Sims got Pope on the board quickly, taking the Greyhounds' first play from scrimmage 70 yards for a touchdown. 

Central's defense contained Pope for much of the first half, until Jason Trainer reeled in a 27-yard TD pass after the Greyhounds were given a short field. 

Senior Carson Leak made his presence felt at linebacker and had an interception to halt a lengthy Pope drive. Defensive backs Jayce Todaro and Austin McNeil each came inches from an interception, with McNeil making a couple of critical pass breakups.

"Some of our corners came up really good on run support and stayed over the top on pass," Rooney said. "The first play, when we gave up that big play, it was just a misfit by our linebackers and then just poor angles. After that, we settled down."