For the past six seasons under head coach Billy Shackelford, Sprayberry has started the season with a losing record before finding its way. Against Forsyth Central on Friday, the Yellow Jackets found their way around the edge.
Torrey Richardson rushed for more than 100 yards in the second half and senior Miles Wallace had 122 yards on just three carries, as the Yellow Jackets held off a late surge by Forsyth Central for a 31-28 win at the Bulldogs’ field.
"We’re proud to get our first victory, but for some reason we struggle for the first three weeks," Shackelford said.
"We said from the beginning we’re a young team but that’s not an excuse anymore. We made it tougher on ourselves than we had to, but we’ve got a lot to fix."
Sprayberry (1-3) made costly mistakes, including a personal foul on fourth down in the final minute that kept the Bulldogs’ hopes alive. Three plays later, Central (0-4) set up for a potential game-tying 48-yard field goal attempt by junior Anel Ramic, who had already connected from 33 and 28 yards.
But the snap was low, and Ramic’s attempt fell five yards short.
"It was going to be a long shot, but we didn’t have many options at that point," Forsyth Central coach Chris Bennett said.
"He’s a pretty good kicker, but we had a low snap on it.
"We had a chance. We just didn’t finish it."
Wallace and Richardson finished all their runs with authority, breaking tackles and showcasing some dazzling moves as the Yellow Jackets battled back from a 13-10 halftime deficit.
"They had a six-man box, so we just took advantage of it," said Richardson, who finished with 124 yards on 12 carries and completed two passes for 31 yards. "We were supposed to pass against them because in past weeks, they had bottled the box."
The Yellow Jackets started the second half with first downs around the edge before Richardson took a quarterback sweep for a 44-yard touchdown and a 17-13 lead.
A three-and-out by the defense allowed Sprayberry to return to what was working — attacking the edge with speed.
"They really challenged us to attack the edge and that’s what we had to do because they weren’t giving us a lot of running room in the middle," Shackelford said. "Our bread and butter is in the middle and they took that away from us for most o the night.
"But it did make them vulnerable on the edge and that opened up some one-on-one plays."
Wallace took advantage for his second touchdown on the night, a 37-yard race to the end zone for a 24-13 lead. The Bulldogs answered back with their Wing-T offense and quarterback Michael Branigan, who rushed for 142 yards on 22 carries.
Branigan did a great job selling the fake dive all night, and completely fooled the defense when he stepped back for a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Jones up the seam.
But Richardson answered with his second touchdown, a six-yard run that completed a 10-play drive to start the fourth quarter, creating a lead Sprayberry wouldn’t relinquish.
"I couldn’t break those runs without my offensive line," said Richardson, who nervously watched Ramic’s kick from the sideline.
"We had to get that first win. It feels so good right now."
Central is off this week ahead of its Oct. 5 subregion opener at North Springs.