JASPER – A year ago, it was one of the season’s most thrilling games, a nail-biter that ended with a late touchdown pass.
This time, North Forsyth prevented any drama by the end of the third quarter.
Quarterback Ben Bales threw four touchdowns, tailback Bryson Trigg ran for four more and the Raiders’ defense held Pickens’ potent offense to seven points in the second half for a 58-38 victory Friday in a non-region game on the road.
North (3-1) was coming off a bye week, but the Raiders’ practice schedule leading up to Friday was abbreviated by Tropical Storm Irma, which caused Forsyth County Schools to close Monday and Tuesday. Upon their return Wednesday for practice, six days had passed since varsity players last hit the field.
Raiders head coach Robert Craft said his message to players was influenced by last season’s meeting with Pickens. North fell behind in that game by 14 points and needed a touchdown pass with 16.7 seconds left to pull out a 35-31 victory at home.
“It was the focus all week that we’ve got to set the tempo of the game,” Craft said.
So they did. Trigg rushed for two touchdowns, including a 70-yarder, and Cedric Touchstone caught the first of his two touchdowns to give North an early 21-7 lead. Pickens responded to tie the game, 28-28, but Trigg got loose for a 70-yard score and Arthur Boyzo hit a field goal to put North up 38-38 at the half.
North then scored 20-straight points – a 49-yard touchdown pass to Touchstone, a 35-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Aiken and Trigg’s last touchdown – to take a commanding 58-28 lead.
“Pickens is really talented offensively, so we knew we were going to be challenged and have to play well offensively,” Craft said.
North piled up 658 yards of offense. Bales completed 22 of 33 passes for 328 yards. Touchstone had nine catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns, while Tristan Howard caught five passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.
But Trigg’s big night was perhaps the most encouraging development for North. Expectations were high for the junior running back after leading the team in carries as a sophomore and a standout season on the track team this past spring. Instead, Trigg entered Friday’s game second on the team in rushing.
Not anymore – Trigg finished with 242 yards on 20 carries.
“We kind of knew it was in Bryson. It was just a matter of time,” Craft said. “Our offensive linemen have had four games under their belts, and they’ve started to become better as a group. Bryson did a good job of trusting what was in front of him.”
Yaw Parry and John Allen Whitacre each had interceptions for North, and Honus Wagner had 11 tackles and forced a fumble.
After scoring the second-most points in a single game in program history, the Raiders enter next week’s game against Woodstock on a three-game winning streak.
“Next week’s going to be a big week,” Craft said. “A (Class 7A) playoff team coming in. It’s Homecoming for us. Raider Valley is going to be at its finest. Woodstock is a team we really respect. We feel confident, but we want to come out and play well.”