By Mackenzie Bates
For the Forsyth County News
North Forsyth’s 2018 season got off to a rocky start this past Friday against Cherokee. The Raiders committed seven turnovers as the Warriors escaped Cumming with an 18-16 victory.
It wasn’t as bad as it seemed, though, according to North head coach Robert Craft.
“No quit in our team,” Craft said. “Some things didn’t go our way but the next guy was ready to step up and we just played really hard. That effort we played with tonight is going to win a lot of games.”
Trailing 18-7 late in the fourth quarter, North (0-1) got a safety after a bad snap sailed over Cherokee’s punter.
The next possession saw quarterback Carter Mullikin connect on passes of 22 yards and 24 yards to Nicky Dalmolin and Caleb Vercek, respectively. Mullikin would score on a one-yard plunge to make it 18-16 with two minutes left.
The Raider defense forced a three-and-out giving the ball back to the offense with 65 seconds left. A 29-yard pass to Dalmolin put North inside Warrior territory with 25 seconds left.
However, Cherokee would get its fifth interception of the game on the next play to spoil the rally.
“You’re not going to beat anyone with seven turnovers,” Craft said. “But I go back to the effort the kids played with and getting us right back in it. A lot of things didn’t go our way, but some things we can help. They made some plays and we made some mistakes.”
Mullikin completed 9-of-28 passes for 79 yards. Most of his damage came on the ground with 16 rushes for 100 yards, including a 50-yard dash to start the game.
North came out of the gate fast on their second possession of the game. Bryson Trigg took a handoff for 52 yards to take a 7-0 lead.
However, Trigg would leave the game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. He finished the night with 3 carries for 54 yards. Coach Craft does not know the extent of the injury but said it was precautionary to keep him out of the game.
Honus Wagner stepped in at tailback, contributing 59 yards on 11 carries.
With 2:21 left in the first half, Mullikin threw a pass over the middle that was intercepted. The ball bounced in the air several times before coming to rest on the turf. After a brief conference, officials ruled the ball an interception.
Craft agreed with the call.
“The first guy didn’t catch it but the second guy did,” Craft said. “He took a couple of steps and it was definitely a catch and then fumbled. The bounces went their way.”
Cherokee scored two plays later on a 33-yard pass to Devin Ellison.
A Raider fumble on the ensuing kickoff pushed forward another touchdown for Cherokee on a Garrett Miles two-yard dive. The Warriors took an 18-7 lead in to halftime.
“I’m not sure if we forced even turnovers last season,” Warriors head coach Josh Shaw said. “They came at critical moments and they stopped some big time drives. The fact that we were able to come up with those, especially the one at the end was big.”
Craft’s Raiders will look to clean up their mistakes as they head in to next week’s contest at Gainesville.
“This will be the third year in a row we’ve played them, and it’s creating a little rivalry,” Craft said. “They’re going to be ready to play and we better be, too.”