This is Forsyth Central’s breakout season on the Region 5-7A soccer scene, as surreal as that feels for some of the Bulldogs' players.
"It honestly feels so crazy and amazing," Central senior Jenna Uldrich said. "...To come out here and beat the people who we've always dreamed about beating ... it's amazing."
Like most Central teams, the Bulldogs girls had a trying debut in Class 7A. They went 2-8 in region play, only beating North Forsyth.
But this season, Central has blown out North 7-0, beaten South Forsyth 3-1 – the Bulldogs lost to the War Eagles by 4-1 and 5-0 scores in 2017 – and, on Tuesday night, took down West Forsyth 1-0, continuing a rise to the upper echelon of the county ranks.
The score on Tuesday didn’t fully capture the scale of Central’s dominance. The Bulldogs controlled a wide majority of possession and had most of the chances on goal, with multiple near misses. With nine minutes left in regulation, Allie Hildebrandt ripped a strike towards the upper right portion of the goal that was deflected out for a corner kick, and Callie Fagan had a solid look at a header off the corner.
"It was a bit gut-wrenching, watching the ball bounce around in the back like that," Bulldogs head coach Angela Camp said. "We've got to do a better job of finishing."
The goal that finally put Central up was on the clearest chance of the game. Callie Fagan took the ball into the right side of the box less than a minute into the first extra time period, and when it bounced free, it landed with Uldrich, who was alone on the left side.
"We have a problem with not keeping our head down when we shoot the ball," Uldrich said. "And all I kept doing was (thinking), 'Keep my head down, keep my head down,' so that it would go in the net, and it did."
Central’s vanquishing of opponents it had little chance against in the past merits some context: South and West were hit hard by the establishment of the girls Development Academy, a new level of club soccer that has taken many of the county’s most talented players away from high school teams. The War Eagles lost six players to DA teams, and the Wolverines lost three. Central lost none.
So while Central (6-2-1, 3-1 Region 5-7A) has gotten better, but the playing field has also been leveled. That hasn’t changed how Camp sees this season’s success, though.
"We all work hard," Camp said. "They're working hard, we're working hard. It is what it is."
West fell to 2-5-1, 2-2 with the loss.
West Forsyth boys 1, Forsyth Central 1 (West 3-1 in penalties)
The Wolverines came away with their first win of the season on Tuesday night, but they had to sustain more twists than some teams endure in a whole month to get the victory.
West first fell behind nine minutes into the game, when Central's Gavin Mitchell headed in a free kick. The Wolverines responded with two quick goals at the end of the half, though, as Parker Campbell fired in a long strike that the goalkeeper mishandled, and Carlos Reyes gathered a pass down the right side and finished to the far post.
The Wolverines went down a man when Aiden Mienert received a red card early in the second half, though, and Mitchell scored again when he controlled a ball in the box and fired it home. West's defenders had pulled up on the play, assuming Mitchell would be called offsides.
Despite the disadvantage in numbers, West (1-7, 1-3 Region 5-7A) pushed forward, and Reyes put the Wolverines ahead with a left-footed strike with just under five minutes to play. The Bulldogs (4-4-1, 1-3-0) equalized quickly, though, with Uriel Romero scoring on a header after a long pass into the box.
The two periods of extra time passed without a goal. West fell behind in the penalty kick shootout, with Central converting its first kick and the Wolverines missing their first two, but West made its next three, while the Bulldogs missed all of theirs. Parker Campbell scored the clincher for the Wolverines.