JOHNS CREEK— Fortunately for some of the best senior football players in Forsyth County, Saturday afternoon’s North Fulton/Forsyth Touchdown Club Chamber Bowl All-Star Game was merely an exhibition.
The South squad’s 49-0 slaying of the North culminated in the worst way imaginable an otherwise enjoyable experience for local seniors.
“It was fun — that’s pretty much it,” North team and West Forsyth safety Trevor Guthrie said. “Of course, I wanted to win. I don’t like losing. None of us do.”
South team quarterback Jimmy Meyer, a Centennial senior headed to Harvard next year, sandwiched a touchdown pass to Chris Dore and a 2-yard rushing touchdown around Joe Bartlett’s 5-yard, end-around run in the first quarter. The three scores all came in the same six-minute time frame, giving the navy-blue clad home team a 21-0 first-quarter lead it never looked back from.
Dore caught six passes for 76 yards and two scores. His second touchdown reception, this one a 14-yarder from Riverwood quarterback Robert Beckley, made it 35-0 with 1:21 left in the third.
The lack of cohesion stemming from just four organized practices together was evident. The teams combined for 432 yards of offense and seven fumbles.
Four straight possessions ended in a lost fumble during a five-minute, first-half stretch.
The North’s offense gave the ball away six times via three Spencer Transue (Forsyth Central) interceptions, and fumbles by Lambert quarterback David Broadus, Pinecrest’s Brad Nassuar and Forsyth Central’s Alex Taylor. The rest of its drives resulted in either punts or turnovers on downs.
“I think most of the players were in shock that we lost that way,” said Charles Wiggins, the former coach at Pinecrest Academy and the North team’s head man Saturday. “If you’d asked them last night at the awards banquet, they wouldn’t have told you anything like this was going to happen.”
Mistakes abounded on special teams, too. The North team had two punts partially blocked, turned the ball over on downs on another attempt and netted an average of six yards per punt in the first half as its offense went nowhere.
After being honored Friday night by the Touchdown Club as its special teams player of the year, South team kicker Davis Plowman (Blessed Trinity) hooked three field goals wide left.
It wasn’t a flawless second consecutive victory for the South, but the group of Fulton County athletes took advantage of their opposition’s early miscues at Johns Creek’s Coliseum.
“They obviously broke out of the gates and put us down early,” said Nassaur, who caught four passes for 54 yards. “We fought our hardest.”
Chattahoochee kick-blocking specialist Marcus Sayles got a hand on the North’s first punt, setting up Meyer’s 29-yard pass to a wide-open Dore on a post route to the end zone.
Sayles came after punter Cole Allison (North Forsyth) again on the North’s next possession, and Allison tried to run for the first down but came up four yards short. Bartlett trotted in moments later.
Hooch’s Connor Winn picked off Transue on a tipped pass, and Meyer scrambled right and stretched the ball over the pylon after hitting Dore for an 11-yard strike on fourth down.
“He wasn’t the only one doing work against us,” Guthrie said of Meyer, whom West’s defense limited in a 70-20 win on Sept. 23. “It was kind of a team effort … but he’s a really good player.”
Neither offense seemed to want the ball for a while after Meyer’s touchdown run.
Central linebacker Kurt Osgood recovered a Xavier Quinn fumble, but Broadus gave it right back to the South on a botched snap. Quarterback Blais Furse did the same thing the next play, and Guthrie recovered, but Nassaur dropped Central running back Taylor’s double-reverse handoff.
Centennial running back Zietrick Smith dove in from a yard out moments later to extend the South’s lead to 28-0 with 6:52 remaining in the first half.
The North’s players never got on the same page.
“I could say that, but the other team didn’t have any problem with it,” Wiggins said when asked if a lack of chemistry hurt his team. “We just made a lot of errors and put ourselves in a big hole.”
The teams traded lost fumbles again in the second quarter, and Plowman missed from 39 yards and 32 yards.
South squad linebacker Garrett Harris (Riverwood) leapt high in the air to intercept Transue again early in the third, and South Forsyth’s Hunter Beeghley muffed the South’s punt after the North defense forced a three-and-out.
Beckley’s 14-yard lob to Dore gave the South a 35-0 lead with 1:21 left in the third, and Holy Innocents cornerback Andy Nichols returned Transue’s third interception 35 yards for a score, earning him defensive player of the game honors.
McIntosh’s only pass was a 35-yard touchdown to Hooch receiver Shaun Derck with 1:56 left, capping an ugly fourth quarter that saw a South team player ejected and multiple personal fouls between teams whose players go back to youth football.
“It stings, especially because we know a bunch of the other players,” Nassaur said. “It’s not personal, but it’s a game we took on ourselves to win against kids we know we didn’t get to play in high school.”
A dynamic of familiarity was also present among the North players, South Forsyth lineman Josh Hill said, and made for a special week regardless of the game’s outcome.
“A lot of these guys, I played my first game of rec football with, like my first game ever,” he said, holding his helmet decorated with decals from other schools represented on the North squad. “Now I got to play my last high school game with them. It’s pretty cool, getting to start and end with the same guys.”