It was a rainy Friday night at North Forsyth high school. The Raiders entered the game with something to prove against Forsyth Central. Behind efforts from running back Griffin Heffington and wide receiver Simon Holcomb, North Forsyth got its first region win of the year, 28-15.
With a rivalry that dates back as old as this one, the memories of the games don’t escape you. The last time North and Central played one another in a region contest that had actual playoff stakes was in 2007 when both teams were in Class 5A. Central won the game 27-25, and The Revival promised that some in the North stands never forgot.
Conditions endorsed a run-heavy battle, and both teams accepted the challenge. North (4-2, 1-0) had the first scoring drive of the game, a five-play, five-run drive that ended with a 1-yard run from Carter Mullikin.
Central (3-2, 1-0), so reliant on senior running back Sabrian Howard to kick start its offense, fed him the ball early and often. But Howard didn’t find the same kind of success he did through Central’s first four games when he averaged 177 yards a game and scored 11 touchdowns.
The Bulldogs turned to junior Dylan Buchs to try and break through the Raider defense. Buchs broke off a 55-yard run on their second drive, setting up Central for an easy 6-yard score by Blake Wood.
The Bulldogs had another chance to strike after North fumbled the ball away near midfield. Central failed to capitalize off of North’s mistakes, a theme that ran true throughout.
While Central failed to turn the turnover into points, North made use of a Bulldog mistake. A botched snap stopped a surging drive, giving North good field position after a 12-yard punt. Quarterback Ben Bales found Holcomb on a screen pass, and Holcomb ran across the field to break off a big 33-yard play. Heffington capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run.
“Our thing all week was to start fast on both sides of the ball,” North coach Robert Craft said, “and the kids came out and did a great job of doing that.”
A field goal as time expired gave North an 18-7 lead going into halftime.
Howard failed to get going all night. The centerpiece of Central’s offense ended the first half with 31 rush yards on 12 attempts. Central continued to try to get Howard going in the second half, but he only managed 20 yards on eight attempts.
“They decided that they were going to take the run away from us,” Central coach Frank Hepler said. “They did a nice job against the run, and we have to see what they did and expect other teams down the road to do that too. We have to have an answer for it.”
While Central’s offense stalled, North’s offense made mistakes. North scored on its first possession of the third quarter, but the Raiders failed to score again until a field goal with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter. Two huge penalties erased two large gains, and they fumbled the ball away on a punt. They could not lay down the dagger.
Central managed to score one more touchdown in garbage time, but it was too little, too late.