After suffering through a month of early season struggles, Forsyth Central finally tasted victory in front of home fans at The Dog Pound as the Bulldogs celebrated their 2013 homecoming on Friday by defeating North Springs 35-22.
Central (1-4, 1-1 Region 7A-AAAAA) stormed to an early 28-0 lead with the defense and special teams inflicting most of the damage. The Bulldogs returned two Spartan interceptions for touchdowns and added another score off a stunning punt return touchdown.
“Any time you can put points on the board, especially with the season we’ve been having, that’s a lot of momentum for us,” Central coach Shane Williamson said. “We came out and worked hard for two weeks, put some guys in different positions and played very well tonight. This [win] is for the football team, the coaching staff, the fans and the people that hired me. This is for them and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
The Central defense gave a gutsy performance, capitalizing on turnovers and forcing North Springs (1-4, 0-2) to move away from its run game, thus becoming more predictable offensively. The Spartans gained 184 yards through the air, but never made enough consecutive plays to threaten the Bulldogs’ commanding lead.
Central intercepted the ball three times, returning two of them for scores and setting a definitive tone for the entirety of the game. Adam Maresco came down with the first interception, rumbling 25 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 21-0 lead late in the first half. With less than a minute played in the third quarter, senior Michael Branigan jumped in front of another wayward pass and returned it 15 yards for a second defensive score, putting the Bulldogs up 28-0.
Special teams also proved to be a major factor in the Central victory. Trailing 7-0, North Springs was forced to punt the ball deep in its own territory. Branigan received the punt near midfield, spun away from two defenders and raced down the right sideline for an electrifying 56-yard punt return touchdown to give Central a 14-0 advantage.
“I love returning the ball and getting into the open field,” Branigan said. “As soon as I got to the sideline, all I saw was a sea of black [jerseys] and I knew it was a touchdown. At halftime, I realized that we haven’t had a punt return like that since a couple of years ago, so that made it even more exciting.”
Offensively, Central challenged North Springs to stop its potent rushing combination of Jake Gorzsyca (14 rushes, 154 yards, 1 TD) and Ryan Hintz (6 rushes, 41 yards, 1 TD). The Bulldogs finished the game with a rush to pass ratio of 33:1.
North Springs did have several passing highlights, including two long passing scores of 52 and 42 yards. But because of Central’s fantastic work in the first three quarters of the contest, the late Spartans’ rally never had any real chance of success.
Central showed new life while earning its first win of the season, but is still only one game removed from an 0-4 start. If the Bulldogs are to find more success in the future, an overall team performance like Friday night’s game could serve as the perfect template.
“It was a beautiful effort today, a masterpiece,” Branigan said. “[North Springs] started coming back on us, but we were there every play. Offense, defense and special teams all scored and everything just flowed perfectly. You couldn’t ask for anything better, especially on homecoming.”