The North Forsyth football team is aware of the program’s trajectory and what should come next.
In head coach Robert Craft’s first year, the Raiders caused some havoc in the region, but ultimately fell short of the playoffs. Last season, with Craft’s system fully in place, North was a bit better, reaching the playoffs as a No. 4 seed and falling in the first round to North Gwinnett.
This fall, a simple repeat won’t be acceptable.
“We just want to redeem ourselves,” rising senior tailback Bryson Trigg said. “I think people looked at that (playoff) game and said ‘Oh, you know, fluke season.’”
North’s most recognizable trait in 2017 was the heaps of yardage generated in Craft’s pure spread system, with quarterback Ben Bales setting single-game and career records for passing yards. The Raiders will have to replace Bales, who has graduated, and are currently evaluating a battle between rising senior Carter Mullikin and rising junior Noah Gilbert. Craft said that both of those players can offer more mobility than the pocket-oriented Bales could, and the competition between them will likely stretch into fall camp.
There’s more stability, however, at the positions protecting Mullikin and Gilbert and receiving their passes and handoffs. The Raiders have one of the region’s most dangerous pass-catchers in rising junior Nicky Dalmolin, who has already committed to play at Duke, and rising senior Charlie Aiken, a dangerous deep threat, caught 40 passes for 721 yards.
Rising senior tailback Bryson Trigg, who rushed for 928 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017, has some of the best straight-line speed and agility in the region, and he’ll be led by an offensive line returning four of its five starters from last season, led by rising senior Jeremy James, a hulking tackle who holds double-digit offers from high-major Division I programs.
“I think we have a chance to be the best o-line in the county, by far,” James said. “We all have experience, and we connect well now. I think we can do some great things.”
Defense is a more nebulous area for North. The Raiders have contributors in the secondary coming back, like rising senior Honus Wagner, who's started since he was a freshman, but they have to replace a number of first and second-level players like Will Chavarria and Robert Faulkner.
That isn't stopping the Raiders from expressing supreme confidence in the program's chances for the fall. They don't want to just win one more game or do one better seed: Craft mentioned hosting and winning a playoff game as the next steps for the program, and James expressed a desire to win the region.
North's goals have changed, but that hasn't stopped the Raiders from believing they can meet them.
"I'm really excited about this group," Craft said. "I think they have the ingredients and the key people in place to be able to do that."