North Forsyth senior outside linebacker Mason Lawson jumped the passing lane and thanks to an extra push from his teammates completed a 33-yard pick-6 to secure a thrilling 28-24 victory over West Forsyth Friday at home.
The Raiders overcame a 24-7 deficit in the non-region rivalry game and have now beaten the Wolverines three years in a row.
“Just so proud of our team,” North head coach Robert Craft said. "They trusted the coaches. We told them to relax and keep playing. That’s so much credit for how hard they work. I told them in the locker room how I was so proud of how they kept battling through tough times."
The Wolverines' first series on both sides of the ball started terribly.
On third-and-long, North senior defensive lineman Chris Herock recorded a strip sack to give the Raiders the football on the West 28-yard line. Then on the Raiders' second offensive play, West Roberts launched a beautiful pass to Michael Okland, who mossed his defender for a 25-yard touchdown.
After West's Ryder Stewart carried for 5 yards to make third down more manageable, senior quarterback Jack Tomlinson got sacked by senior linebacker Cole LeRoy.
Although the Wolverines didn’t leave the possession empty-handed, as a 40-yard field goal by Niko Nunez cut the lead to 7-3.
On North’s second drive, the Raiders decided to throw a screen pass on their first play to Aiden Ruckh, but cornerback Aiden Cook blew it up before it could go anywhere. On third-and-8, Roberts found a wide-open receiver Logan Curry for a 17-yard reception to keep the drive alive.
Craft continued to ride his passing attack, and that was when Roberts completed a pass in a tight window to Ruckh. However, Roberts looked his way again, but Tyler Hoffman broke through the Raiders offensive line for a sack, resulting in a loss of 7 yards.
To start the second quarter, the Wolverines faced a third-and-13. Tomlinson, though, completed a pass to Stewart on a post route for a 25-yard touchdown.
During West's next drive, North defense wanted to get off the field fast. They did just that, bringing the blitz, as senior linebacker Colin Miller chased Tomlinson down for a 10-yard sack.
The Wolverines decided to take their chances and go for it on fourth down, but Miller bulldozed through the West offensive line. Tomlinson tried to outrun Miller, but the senior linebacker was able to wrap him up for a sack, giving the Raiders the ball back on West's 44-yard line.
At that point, the rain started to come down, and it affected Roberts when he tried to scramble. The Wolverines defense chased him down and stripped the ball away.
While the Wolverines were able to recover the fumble, their offense couldn’t get in sync and punted the ball to the Raiders 17-yard line.
With the rain coming down harder, the refs had to put a towel over the ball before North could start their drive. Craft didn’t want to risk another fumble and made Roberts take a knee until time expired in the first half.
The Raiders didn’t start the second half of the game too hot.
On third down, Roberts fumbled again. This time, senior linebacker Riley McKee scooped it up and took it to the house for a 39-yard touchdown to expand the lead to 17-7.
With 2:18 to go in the third quarter, Herock was able to get in the backfield for his second sack of the game to return the ball to North.
However, the Raiders offense struggled to get going.
On third-and-7, North lined up in an empty set. Roberts tried to hit his receiver on a curl route, but senior cornerback Aiden Cook jumped in front of the pass and outran Roberts for a 23-yard pick-6 for the Wolverines' biggest lead of the game at 24-7.
Roberts knew he had to keep his head up and put his mistakes in the rearview mirror.
The senior put his game face on and hit Logan Curry on a wide receiver screen pass. Senior tight end Cooper Eglian recorded a pancake block, and Curry sped down the sideline to the 6-yard line. Miller then capped off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown, giving him five scores on the year.
Then with under 20 seconds to go in the third quarter, Roberts hit Curry on the money with a long ball for a 63-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead down to 24-21.
Roberts ended the night going 12-for-26 passing for 217 yards with two touchdowns.
“West is a team captain, and we’re so confident in his performance,” Craft said of Roberts' performance. "We tried to tell him to relax. It’s a hard game to play quarterback with their great defense plus weather conditions. Told him, ‘Take what the defense gives you [and] be patient.' When it mattered most, he made the plays."
When the fourth quarter started, the North Forsyth team huddled up and got hyped up in front of their crowd after making the game a competitive one.
The momentum carried over to the defense, and that's when Lawson intercepted Tomlinson, overcame his jersey nearly being completely torn off and found his way across the goal line to give the Raiders their first lead since the opening quarter.
When the Wolverines got the ball back, a low snap resulted in a loss of 6 yards. After getting triple-teamed the majority of the night, Herock broke free and got his third sack.
West had no option but to punt on fourth-and-32.
“It’s nothing new to us, we did it last year,” Miller said of his and Herock's performances. "We knew the roles we were stepping into this year, and we had help from everybody. Our defense is so energized. I’m so grateful me and Chris got to step on that."
Miller finished the game with two sacks and a forced fumble. Herock forced a fumble, as well, and recorded four sacks.
“Confident in how our defense was playing,” Craft said regarding the defensive performance. "Big credit to coach [Chris] Wagner and our defensive staff. They had a great game plan and our players executed it."
On third-and-4 with the game on the line, Miller went back on the field for offense. He took the direct snap out of the wildcat formation, coming up just shy of the marker. On fourth-and-1, Miller repeated, but this time, he gets the first down to end the Wolverines’ chance of coming back.
“It was a relief but it was pride,” Miller said of the fourth-down conversion. "I was proud of how the boys played. It’s a tough thing to come back for anybody. I came out, we needed to get 4 yards. I didn't get it the first time. One-yard run — first down that secured the ballgame. It’s not even hard for me when the offensive line is pushing like they did on that heavy play."