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Football: Craft era begins at North Forsyth with big win
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North Forsyth’s Simon Holcomb (left) celebrates with Clayton Bardall after one of his two touchdown catches Friday against Sequoyah. - photo by Lily McGregor Photography

The Robert Craft era at North Forsyth began with 34-14 win over Sequoyah on Friday night.

“Any time you can start 1-0 it’s a great feeling,” Craft said. “It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t perfect by any means, but that was something we expected in week one. I told our guys we just gotta believe that we can get better every week and continue to clean up some of our mistakes.”

The Raiders (1-0) got off to about as bad of a start as possible as Sequoyah’s Cole Jacobs took the game’s opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.

But the Raiders responded, doing a nice job of dictating the tempo and mixing the play selection on an eight-play, 82-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown run by Griffin Heffington.

“I feel like we responded pretty well,” North quarterback Ben Bales said. “We went down there and scored pretty quick. Then throughout the rest of the first half our offense just went out there and performed.”

After Sequoyah (0-1) took a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter, North came right back with a quick two-play, 52-yard drive that was capped off by a 33-yard bullet from Bales that Clayton Bardall took into the end zone to even the score at 14.

Bales and Bardall hooked up again on the Raiders’ following drive, after a play-action fake left the junior tight end wide open for a 64-yard touchdown, giving North a 21-14 lead.

But Bales wasn’t done there. After a poor punt gave the Raiders the ball on the Chiefs’ 33-yard line, they went for the jugular. On 4th-and-6, Bales went deep to Simon Holcomb, who made an acrobatic grab in the end zone with a defender draped all over him, putting the Raiders up 28-14 with just over two minutes remaining in the first half.

“I was really proud of him,” Craft said of his junior quarterback. “He was really consistent, I don’t know what his stats were, but he was very consistent. We were moving the football and we took some shots when they gave them to us.”

Bales finished the game going 15-for-22 for 263 yards and four touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Raiders’ defense held Sequoyah to 3-for-13 on third downs, while racking up five sacks, all of which came on “money down.”

“Third down is an emphasis,” Craft said. “We work on it every week. We talk about it being a money down. You gotta get off the field or you gotta keep drives going. I’m proud of our guys realizing the situation. Somebody’s gotta go make a play on one side or the other and we came up with some timely plays, especially on defense.”

In total, the Raiders held Sequoyah to just 193 yards of offense, while their offense racked up 421 yards.

Craft is North’s seventh coach since the school opened in 1994, but only the second to notch a win in his debut.

“This is a great place,” Craft said. “We have a chance to be really good, we just gotta get better every week.”