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Football: Senior-laden North Forsyth eager for playoff appearance
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North Forsyth seniors Jonah Sexton, left, and Patrick Corrigan are two of 26 seniors on an experienced Raiders squad this season. - photo by Jacob Smith

2021 Football Schedule

Aug. 20 – Alcovy at North Forsyth

Aug. 27 – North Forsyth at Harrison

Sept. 3 – Dalton at North Forsyth

Sept. 10 – Etowah at North Forsyth

Sept. 17 – North Forsyth at Denmark

Sept. 23 – BYE

Oct. 1 – West Forsyth at North Forsyth

Oct. 8 – Forsyth Central at North Forsyth

Oct. 15 – North Forsyth at Lambert

Oct. 22 – BYE

Oct. 29 – North Forsyth at South Forsyth

Nov. 5 – Gainesville at North Forsyth

The makeup of North Forsyth’s football team will mirror that of its quarterback.

Tough, hard-nosed and eager.

Quarterback Drew Aucoin played special teams last year, and head coach Robert Craft says that the Raiders’ coaching staff jokes that Aucoin would start at linebacker if he wasn’t the quarterback.

“Drew’s been in our program for four years. He’s played a bunch on Friday nights in some special teams roles,” Craft said. “Our defensive coordinator jokes all the time that if he wasn’t our starting quarterback, he’d be starting at linebacker, probably. That just shows you his physical toughness, but also his mental toughness. I think as a quarterback you’ve got to have that, because you’re going to have some ups and you’re going to have some downs at that position.”

2020 Results

6-4 Overall, 2-4 Region 6-7A

North Forsyth 28, Alcovy 3

North Forsyth 10, Harrison 9

North Forsyth 28, Hapeville Charter 14

North Forsyth 28, Etowah 0

Denmark 20, North Forsyth 10

North Forsyth 24, West Forsyth 10

Forsyth Central 28, North Forsyth 27

North Forsyth 34, Lambert 20

South Forsyth 52, North Forsyth 7

Gainesville 17, North Forsyth 0

Aucoin will have the luxury of lining up behind an experienced offensive line.

Left tackle Elisha Samples is committed to East Carolina and right guard Elijah Edwards is committed to Mercer.

Eli Tompkins and Greg Toll occupy the other guard and tackle positions, but Craft said much of the offensive line’s experience begins with center JT Francis.

“It’s a group that our two offensive line coaches – Coach Cecil Flowe and Coach Blake Palmer – have really been grooming for the last several years,” Craft said. “Really, all of them played significantly last year – some even as sophomores. We took some lumps a little bit at times the last few years being younger, but it’s their time. They’re leaders of our football team, starting with JT as a center. Naturally, that guy commands a lot of respect, and he lives up to what we ask him to do.”

Trophy Case 

First varsity season: 1994 

Playoff appearances: 9 (1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2019) 

Region titles: 1 (2001) 

State titles: 0

Francis [92 percent] and Tompkins [90 percent] were the Raiders’ top-graded offensive linemen last season.

Riley Smith, a Charleston Southern commit, is one of three senior tight ends and caught a team-high three touchdowns last season.

Smith’s 13 receptions for 198 yards leads all returning receivers.

Junior Garrett Achilles caught 16 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown last season and is a candidate to replace the production of Tucker Hartsfield, whose 38 catches for 549 yards led the team.

“Garrett’s going to have a big year,” Craft said. “He’s worked really hard and played a key role for us last year as a sophomore. He’s another guy who showed up a lot in different special teams roles. We have a few guys, like Riley at tight end, who we feel can create mismatches on the perimeter. Garrett is a guy who can play inside receiver, outside receiver. Will Peltz is a senior who we feel like is poised for a big year.”

As is the case on offense, North’s strength on defense is long the line of scrimmage.

Junior Chris Herock collected seven tackle for loss last season, which was second on the team, and finished with 57 tackles.

“Across the line on defense, [we’re] returning a couple guys there with Chris Herock, who’s played significantly since his freshman year,” Craft said. “I think if you wanted to start a football team, you

would always start at the interior and then work your way out. So, we’re excited about that group and what they can do this year.”

The only player Herock trailed was reigning Forsyth County News Defensive Player of the Year Patrick Corrigan, who exploded for 112 tackles, including 14 stops behind the line, six sacks, 20 QB hurries and four fumble recoveries.

Corrigan also carried the ball 50 times for 291 yards and four touchdowns.

“He’s always trying to get better. He’s not satisfied,” Craft said. “He played a lot as a freshman even, then was a full-time starter as a sophomore and last year was really a breakout year. We kind of knew that was always there and it was coming.”

North must replace defensive linemen Max Bryant and Dylan Lurie, as well as linebacker Aaron Griffin, though the Raiders return a pair of athletic linebackers in Tristan Graham and Dylan Lyerly.

Both players are also standouts on the wrestling mat and have reached the state championship match. Lyerly won the Class 7A 220 state championship in 2019-20, while Graham finished as the Class 7A 182 runner-up.

“Another senior who’s coming off some wrestling injuries is Tristan Graham,” Craft said. “We’re excited to get Tristan back. He played a lot last year. Dylan Lyerly will be an outside linebacker, then a couple of young guys – Cole Leroy, Collin Miller, who again are kind of in that group of juniors who are ready to play on Friday nights.”