By Caleb Byrd
For the Forsyth County News
Ashton Van Horn scrambled to the right side of the field, North Forsyth defensive lineman Chris Herock in hot pursuit.
Van Horn braced for the tackle, but before he could tuck the ball, Herock punched it loose. The ball skipped backwards, and Patrick Corrigan scooped it up, sprinting 30 yards into the end zone.
The funeral toll was sounded for West as Corrigan strode across the goal line, putting North up two scores as the final minutes of the fourth quarter wound down. North won in an exciting fashion Friday night at West Forsyth, 24-10.
The Raiders took home the win and ended a drought, bringing the Leather Helmet trophy back to North for the first time in nine years.
“The last few weeks have been so close,” head coach Robert Craft said. “We said coming out of halftime we gotta go win this second half, and our guys stepped up and made big plays. We had the two best weeks of practice I’ve ever had as a head coach coming into this game, and it showed tonight.”
The bye week following North’s first loss of the season paid off, and in a big way.
Brady Meitz went 16-of-27 passing for 121 yards and a touchdown, adding another touchdown with his legs.
Compare that with a 57-yard, two-interception performance in the second half against Denmark, and it’s obvious two weeks of practice brought Meitz back into shape.
The Raiders’ defense profited from the break as well. After giving up 171 rushing yards against Denmark from McLaughlin alone, facing West’s workhorse Daba Fofana would be a test of resilience for North.
After an initial four-play, 54-yard touchdown drive on the legs of Fofana, the West Forsyth offense stalled out the remainder of the game.
Fofana finished with 98 yards rushing on 19 carries, and Van Horn finished 6 of 22 for 87 yards, two interceptions, and a fumble that led to a North defensive score.
The North defense played lights out in the second half.
Two sacks from Tristan Graham and Aaron Redd, two interceptions from Jumel Lewis and Nick Ware, and the forced fumble and scoop-and-score from Herock and Corrigan shut any Wolverine offensive hope down.
Whatever the Raider coaching staff schemed up at halftime, it worked.
“Man, they’ve got a great unit on offense,” Craft continued. “They’ve been putting up some points this season, so for our defense to step up, play physical, and limit big plays was huge for us tonight.”
Penalties plagued the West Forsyth offense, amassing 45 yards in damages over six infractions. And a wild snap on a punt that skirted out the back of their own end zone cost the Wolverines two crucial points late in the third quarter.
West led the game until the last eight minutes of the fourth quarter, but momentum had flipped after the safety.
North drove down the field and Meitz connected with Riley Smith for a touchdown on a throw across his body in mid-scramble. Meitz found Chris Dixon immediately after for the two-point conversion, putting North up 17-10.
Two plays later, Van Horn fumbled and Corrigan scooped up the loose ball and scored. North went up two scores in under two minutes.
“I thought North played really well,” head coach Dave Svehla said. “We didn’t execute as well as we would have liked to. I don’t think I did a very good job coaching the guys in-game, and I think it all starts with me. I gotta do a better job. We all have a responsibility in this thing, but our kids will play hard, they’ll rebound. They’re resilient kids, they’re people of high character. We play South next week, so we gotta come back strong.”
Humble, uplifting words from a head coach that cares deeply about his players. No doubt, West is in good hands over the coming weeks.
Despite the loss, there were some bright spots in the Wolverine defense: Riley McKee and Kyle Peterson both came up with a sack, Kobe Haynes intercepted Meitz in the second quarter, and the defense allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards on the night.
West’s Oscar Delp gained 49 yards on three receptions, and senior Alex Wilson provided the only other Wolverine score on a 28-yard field goal.
North’s Tucker Hartsfield caught 59 yards on five receptions. Tucker Todd caught 48 yards on four receptions, and Riley Smith caught Meitz’s only passing touchdown of the night.
Patrick Corrigan rushed for 32 yards, and Meitz rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown.
North (5-1, 1-1 Region 6-7A) will host Forsyth Central at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23, while West (2-3, 0-1 Region 6-7A) will try to bounce back against South Forsyth at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at home.