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Football: Strong second half propels North to 37-7 win over Alcovy
North Forsyth junior Mason Lawson, right, stiff-arms an Alcovy defender. - photo by David Roberts

North Forsyth's offense needed a couple of quarters to shake off the rust. 

Collin Miller needed only a couple of minutes.

Miller, a junior linebacker, introduced himself to Alcovy quarterback Ashton Evans on the Tigers' second drive of the game, when he sacked Evans for a loss of 13 yards. Three plays later, he recovered a blocked punt, and on the next drive he sacked Evans again. 

Miller's dominant performance helped North hold Alcovy to -28 yards on the ground and fewer than 200 yards of total offense, as the Raiders rolled to a 37-7 win in their season opener at Raider Valley.

"He played some as a sophomore last year and had a phenomenal scrimmage two weeks ago against Dawson and picked up right here," North head coach Robert Craft said of Miller. "Collin plays with a ton of effort and plays with a lot of energy. He's super athletic. We've thought all along that he's going to be a guy, and counting the scrimmage and this week, he's really played well."

The blocked punt set up North's first touchdown of the season. Quarterback Brady Aucoin completed back-to-back passes to tight end Riley Smith — one for 15 yards and another for 4 yards — then running back Mason Lawson unleashed a powerful 18-yard run to take the Raiders to the goal line.

Aucoin plunged in from the 1-yard line, his first of three rushing touchdowns.

North's offense failed to score on its next three drives, though. First, the Raiders failed to convert on fourth-and-4, then a sack stalled a promising drive, and then Aucoin was sacked from behind and fumbled the ball. 

Three plays prior, Aucoin hit Garrett Achilles on a 59-yard TD strike, but a holding call negated the score.

"It wasn't as polished," Craft said. "They played really hard, but I think we as a team didn't execute a few things that were there — the holding penalty that brought the touchdown back, a couple of third downs we didn't convert on offense, and we gave up some explosive plays. Usually, tackling is something that you see at the beginning of the year that's not as good."

Alcovy briefly took the lead after Evans found Mathias Height on a 9-yard fade in the corner of the end zone. Height finished with 11 catches for 131 yards and the score, nearly three quarters of the Tigers' total offense.

Alcovy managed just nine yards on its first four drives, with Evans completing just 4 of 8 passes for 28 yards, but the Tigers found some momentum in the second half, piecing together a 10-play, 91-yard scoring drive. The Tigers threatened again on the ensuing drive but failed to convert a fourth-and-18 that was set up by an illegal blindside block. 

North took possession and immediately capitalized, with Aucoin completing back-to-back passes to Achilles to give the Raiders the ball at Alcovy's 20-yard line. After three straight incompletions, kicker Will Peltz drilled a 37-yard field goal to give North a 9-7 lead at the break.

"They got some momentum, and then right there before the half, I was really proud of how our guys could kind of pull that back for us. That's good; in hindsight because we were able to win, it's good to have to kind of battle through a little adversity in the second quarter that we had."

North pulled away in the second half, scoring on its first four possessions of the second half. 

The Raiders received runs of 13 and 7 yards from running back Patrick Corrigan, which helped set up a 16-yard wheel route to Caleb Bowen to give North first-and-10 from Alcovy's 25-yard line. Aucoin went right back to Bowen for a 25-yard score that made it 16-7.

North's most impressive drive of the night began in the middle of the third quarter and ended in the fourth quarter. The Raiders sustained a 14-play, 87-yard drive — kept alive by an 8-yard reception by Nick Ware on a stick route on fourth-and-3 — that saw Aucoin bulldoze into the end zone for his second rushing score of the night. 

He added another on a 1-yard TD run, which came after Miller pulverized Alcovy's punter deep in Tigers' territory, then Lake Heffington found the end zone from 2 yards out to make it 37-7.

Aucoin completed 14 of 25 passes for 183 yards and added 18 more yards on 10 carries.

"I thought our quarterback really battled," Craft said. "He even battled some through the first half some. He's super tough, man. That's what I'll always say about Drew -- he's so tough and his teammates love him. I thought he battled through a couple missed throws, but he's such a tough guy. You love him kind of being the face of the football team. 

Lawson led the Raiders on the ground with seven carries for 44 yards and Achilles had four catches for 64 yards to lead North through the air. 

North beat Alcovy last year, 35-3, to open the season, but Craft admitted the Tigers were a different group this time around.

"They are a much better team," Craft said. "They played really hard. Coach [Jason] Dukes really does a good job. That jumped off in their scrimmage film. Of course, [MJ Stroud] is a big-time player. They returned most of their team from last year, and you could tell."

North will travel to Harrison next week at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 27.