As the ball sailed wide, North Forsyth’s football team stood stunned in disbelief, some players with their hands on their heads. It was actually, unbelievably, happening again.
Just before their bye last week, the Raiders just barely fell to Woodstock, with a missed extra point and field goal ultimately sealing a one-point loss, exactly the kind of result North head coach Robert Craft preached about avoiding in 2019.
But with just 1:30 left in regulation against Forsyth Central on Friday, North had a perfect chance to redeem itself, with a costly high snap on a punt attempt putting the Raiders deep in enemy territory. A chip shot 23-yard field goal with two seconds left was all it took – or so they thought.
When Will Peltz’s kick missed as the horn sounded, recent history suggested that North would, like it had in the last year in similar situations, fall once again. The Raiders, though, were desperate to buck the trend.
“You've got to battle adversity,” Patrick Corrigan said. “You've got to grind and grit, and trust that your brothers got your back.”
In the first overtime, North and Central matched each other by scoring touchdowns, and Craft displayed belief in his kicker to make the extra point on the Raiders’ score. Central took the ball first in the game’s second overtime and wasted no time taking the lead back at 28-21, with quarterback Bronson Landreth connecting on fade pass to Jake Bretz in the end zone on their first play of the period.
Corrigan answered with a bruising score through a swarm of defenders, but with Central committing a penalty that put the ball on the 1 for the PAT, Craft decided to roll the dice.
“They had a hard time adjusting to our set there,” he said. “We felt good about our short yardage game, and so we just wanted to put it in our guys' hands. You play to win. We had a chance to go win, and that's what we wanted to do.”
And on the play that decided the game, Corrigan delivered, diving in for the two-point conversion to finally put the Raiders over Central, 29-28. With the thrilling victory, North improved to 4-2 overall and 1-0 in Region 5-7A, while the Bulldogs dropped to 3-2, 0-1 in Region 5-7A.
“We've been in two one-point games already,” Craft said. “We talked all offseason (about how) the difference was going to be winning these games at the end. We just believed in our guys there at the end. Our guys were ready, we had the momentum. I'm just so proud -- that's a lot of heart right there for our guys to stay in it for so long.”
Central led for the vast majority of the contest, taking advantage of their chances early while North struggled to do the same. The Bulldogs’ run defense stuffed Corrigan and Jared Lucero for the first three quarters. With a 53-yard Solomon Gates score with 8:23 left in the first quarter and a 9-yard Mitch Weber interception return off Brady Meitz midway through the second, Central jumped out to a 14-0 lead.
With three minutes left before the half, Meitz found Tucker Hartsfield down the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown to narrow the score to 14-7. North couldn’t take advantage of their chances throughout the game, though: The Raiders didn’t score on a dropped pass in the end zone in the first quarter and after a Anthony Herock interception that brought North to Central’s 25 with 47 seconds left in the third.
But the Raiders cashed in on the chance that mattered most, with Miles Hartsfield blocking a Central punt with 8:50 left in the fourth, setting up a Meitz touchdown pass to Nicky Dalmolin to tie the game at 14-14 and set up the exciting finish.
“We played hard. Our defense played hard,” Central coach Frank Hepler said. “We had a couple of mistakes that gave them short fields. We've got to work on that and cut out the mistakes.”
Central will have to have a short memory moving into its second region game against West next week. North enjoyed every moment after their Friday win, but they hope it was just the beginning.
“It's great momentum,” Craft said. “We talked in our bye week: It's a new season regardless of our record. We're 1-0 and we want to keep working for it. This is a big one, though.”