Any chance North Forsyth had of remaining unbeaten was undone by special teams mistakes and turnovers.
Chattahoochee returned two punts for touchdowns and scored another 17 points off four North turnovers in a 47-20 victory on Friday at Raider Valley.
"[The score] is not at all indicative of the way we played, but we can’t make those kind of mistakes," North head coach Blair Armstrong said. "[Chattahoochee] is a good football team … not saying they’re not a good football team, but we shouldn’t have given [the turnovers] to them."
With 1:07 remaining in the second quarter, North (3-1, 0-1 Region 6-AAAAAA) trailed 17-14 and had possession of the ball. But the Raiders went three-and-out and opted to punt from their own 26-yard line.
Justin Jackson received the punt at the Cougars’ 26-yard line and broke a few North tackles en route to a 74-yard touchdown return that gave Chattahoochee (3-1, 1-0) a 24-14 lead going into halftime.
Jackson added a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second half, when the Cougars outscored the Raiders 23-6.
Already trailing 7-0, North turned the ball over on downs on the first drive of the night.
Chattahoochee quarterback Travis Marshall (7 of 15, 110 yards, INT) and running back Chase Nelson (16 rushes, 118 yards, 2TDs) drove the Cougars into field goal range and Adam Abdellaoui hit a 24-yard kick that made the score 10-0 with 11:49 remaining in the second quarter.
North went three-and-out on the next possession but regained possession of the ball when Luke Slaton intercepted Marshall at the Raiders’ 30, before returning the ball to the Raiders’ 44.
After a 25-yard run from Tanner Riddle (8 rushes, 53 yards) on the second play of the drive, the Raiders were on the Cougar 13-yard line. Four plays later, Eric Fitzgerald (19 rushes, 68 yards, 2 TDs) found the end zone with a 1-yard touchdown run with 6:41 left in the second quarter.
The teams would trade rushing touchdowns, with a nine-yard score from Nelson and a two-yard score from Fitzgerald bringing the score to 17-14 prior to Jackson’s first punt return.
"I won’t go into the details of [the punt return touchdowns], but those should have never occurred," Armstrong said. "We’ve just got to improve in those areas so it won’t happen again."
On the second series of the third quarter, Chattahoochee recovered a punt that deflected off the hands of Luke Slaton at the Raiders’ 19-yard line. That led to a 31-yard field goal by Abdellaoui.
"Any turnover is going to hurt you." Armstrong said. "I mean, I see them do it on Sundays [in the NFL], so I’m not going to bang my guys. They work hard, we practice hard, and we work on all of those things; it just didn’t go our way tonight."
The Raiders turned the ball over for the third time when Riddle lost the ball on the sixth play of the following drive during the hand-off from quarterback Harris Roberts (5 of 14, 52 yards, INT) on the Cougar 32-yard line.
Chattahoochee’s Ryan Clancy recovered the loose ball at the 34-yard line and ran it all 66-yards to the end zone to put the cougars up 33-14 with 3:25 remaining in the third quarter.
North punted again on its next drive and Jackson ran it back for his second touchdown.
Chattahoochee scored its final touchdown with 7:46 remaining in the fourth quarter after intercepting Roberts on the Raider 20-yard line. Two plays later, Marshall (7 rushes, 54 yards, TD) faked a handoff and ran for 14 yards into the end zone.
"Anytime you play a good football team, you can’t give them those freebies," Armstrong said. "That’s basically what we did — we gave them some free touchdowns. We can’t do that; we’ve got to fix that."
North scored its final points on an 11-play, 83-yard touchdown drive. Sophomore running back Jamal Davenport (19 rushes, 113 yards, TD) carried the ball on 10 of those eleven plays, including a 1-yard touchdown run.
"I think [what hurts] is the fact that we played better than the score indicated," Armstrong said. "We were doing really well at times and just made some critical mistakes at the wrong time."
North travels to Lambert on Friday to face the unbeaten Longhorns (4-0).