North Forsyth is one of few teams in the county that won't face Milton this year, but that didn't stop the Raiders from scheduling one of the state's premier programs Friday to mark the end of spring practice with a scrimmage against the Eagles.
Milton held a 24-6 lead minutes into the third quarter when the game was called because of inclement weather in the area.
"We certainly scheduled Milton for a reason," North coach Robert Craft said. "They're one of the top teams in the state every year, and really in the country in high school football. That's always a goal of ours to really get a good idea of who we are."
North's first two series couldn't have gone much better. Rising junior Jacob Shirley threw down Milton QB Dylan Warren for an 11-yard sack on the game's opening play, and the Raiders got the ball back after a three-and-out.
North QB West Roberts hit on a couple of quick completions, including one to wide receiver Aiden Ruckh, who caught a pass on a comeback route, then stuck out his arm and bounced off Milton defensive back Brayden Holmes before carrying the ball down to the goal line.
North settled for a chip-shot field goal by Adrian Droze, who added a 34-yarder later in the half after Braden O'Shields recovered a Milton fumble.
Roberts and Ruckh are both rising seniors, as is wide receiver Logan Curry, and Craft said he expects those three players to drive the Raiders' offense.
"Really feel we have a chance to be as talented as we've been in a long time at receiver and in the backfield. We have a good group of seniors there," Craft said. "I think you're going to see Ruckh have a big year. He's had a great spring and offseason in the weight room and really put on some good weight. You saw that in the first series on the back-shoulder ball where he broke the tackle and almost got it in there."
Milton flashed its play-making ability when Luke Nickel entered at quarterback and lofted an 81-yard bomb to Bryce Thornton. Thornton also caught a TD pass from Warren, while Nickel threw his second TD right before halftime when he floated a pass to Ryan Ghea in the corner of the end zone.
North's secondary is greener than last year's unit, but the Raiders held their own for the most part.
Rising senior JD Galligan and rising sophomore Colton Constable each broke up a pass in the end zone on one-on-one situations, and rising senior Gavin Busse pulled down an interception off a tipped pass by rising junior Jonathan Lynn.
Fellow rising sophomore Karson McBrayer played both sides of the ball and accounted for one of the longest plays of the game on a catch-and-run that was called back because of a holding penalty.
"We're really fired up about that class, our rising sophomores," Craft said. "Karson's had a great spring on both sides of the ball. He played on both sides of the ball in the first half at outside linebacker and running back. Had a big play, and I hate it got called back. Colton started at corner, and we lost both of our corners, so he had a chance to really compete for a job and came out with a great spring with a lot of confidence."
McBrayer isn't the only two-way player for the Raiders. Curry returns after a junior season that saw him collect 38 tackles with four PBUs and two interceptions. He also accounted for 342 yards and three touchdowns last year on offense.
"Logan's a playmaker," Craft said. "He's going to play everywhere on the field for us — on both sides of the ball. He'll be really highlighted in special teams. It was great to see those guys. It felt like Logan especially picked up where he left off last year."
North must also replace its entire offensive line, a unit that featured two Division I signees at guard and tackle, plus a multi-year starter at center.
"We've got a lot of competition there," Craft said. "We've probably got seven or eight guys that are competing in there. Three or four sophomores, three or four juniors and not really any seniors. Chris Herock will do a little bit here and there, but he didn't play any there tonight."
Rising junior Abdiel Espinoza earned snaps at left tackle, which is the position his brother, Daniel Espinoza, played for the Raiders before graduating in 2019.
Craft said Espinoza and rising sophomore center Colin Kelley both had productive springs.
"We played a lot of guys on both sides of the ball. We rotated a lot," Craft said. "A couple starters only played the first quarter, then a lot of the guys we pulled at halftime. That was the plan — just to try to create depth in the spring and try to get a lot of guys time. Unfortunately a little bit of that was cut short with the weather."