North Forsyth got off to a rocky start in a rain-filled first half, but quarterback Ben Bales was able to right the ship for the Raiders with three touchdown passes en route to a 24-17 win over Loganville on Friday night in Raider Valley.
“We told our guys at halftime that was about as bad of a first half as we could’ve played,” North head coach Robert Craft said. “It wasn’t our best night, but tough teams find a way to win.”
The Raiders jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the first quarter after Bales (17-for-23, 245 yards, 3 TDs, INT) found receiver Tristan Howard across the middle for a 16-yard touchdown pass on the second drive of the game, but it was turnovers in the second quarter that swung the momentum in Loganville’s favor.
A strong rain started late in the first, which may have led to some of North’s miscues.
A muffed punt gave Loganville the ball on North’s 26-yard line. Five plays later, Red Devils quarterback David Smith was in the end zone to make it 10-7 Loganville.
The next play from scrimmage for North was a fumble recovered by Loganville. A 30-yard touchdown pass from Smith (19-for-34, 131 yards, TD, INT) to Blake May and suddenly, it was 17-7.
The following drive for North was crucial, and Bales delivered. Six plays into the drive, the senior quarterback aired it up for Howard (3 catches, 81 yards, 2 TDs) who won the jump ball, broke a tackle and pranced the rest of the way into the end zone.
“Ben’s our leader,” Craft said. “Ben’s a guy who’s very consistent every week. We know what we’re going to get out of him. He took control of the football game really well.”
It was only a three-point deficit at half due in large part to the strong tackling performance from the Raider defenders. Thirteen of the Red Devils’ completed passes were for five or fewer yards, four were tackled for a loss.
“Early in the season, tackling’s usually one of the things you struggle with,” Craft said. “(We’re) trying to get better at that every week. Other than a couple big plays, I felt like we limited them all night.”
The defense was consistent throughout and shut out the Red Devils in the second half.
Early in the fourth quarter, North took the lead back following a five-play, 30-yard drive that started with a kick-catch interference call on Loganville. Bales hit Cedric Touchstone (6 catches, 93 yards, TD) on a post route in the end zone for the 18-yard touchdown completion to put North up 21-17.
“(My receivers) performed really well tonight,” Bales said. “I’ve played with Cedric and Tristan since I was in seventh grade so I know kind of their tendencies and stuff like that. It just helps a lot having that previous team experience with them.”
Two drives later, North added a field goal following a 17-play, 78-yard drive for the final score of 24-17.
“It’s a really big confidence booster,” Bales said about the win. “Going into the bye week, this is definitely going to help us a lot.”