LAWRENCEVILLE – North Forsyth ended the regular season with three straight victories and entered Friday night’s first round playoff game against Archer looking to keep the momentum alive.
Unfortunately, North was overpowered and overwhelmed by the No. 7-ranked Tigers in a 34-7 defeat Friday in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs at Archer.
North (7-4) played from behind the entire game and rarely looked in-sync on either side of the ball. Archer (11-0) scored 34 consecutive points and controlled the game in almost every aspect.
"It’s tough to go out this way in the playoffs," North coach Jason Galt said. "We battled them, but they were just a little better than us tonight. Sometimes you just go up against teams that are a little bigger, faster and stronger than you. There’s nothing you can do about that, but our guys still fought to the very end. That’s all you can ask for ... to never give up."
North’s rush-reliant offense struggled against a stout Archer defense. No Raiders runner was able to gain more than 50 total rushing yards. North struggled on third down, converting only 3-of-11 chances and forcing the team to end drives prematurely or attempt risky plays on fourth down.
North quarterback Cody Gottberg (2-of-8, 79 yards, TD, two INTs) was victimized by the Archer defense. Although North passed the ball infrequently, the Tiger defense played consistent coverage on the Raiders receivers and allowed only one major play through the air while collecting two crucial interceptions.
Archer quarterback Gabe Tiller (16-of-19, 151 yards, three TDs) and running back Randy Nails (11 rushes, 108 yards, TD) led the high-octane Tigers offense. Archer also held control of the line of scrimmage, opening lanes for their own rushers while simultaneously shutting down the rush-heavy Raider offense.
"This team has given the most effort that I have ever seen," North senior captain Jerret Paige said. "I can’t thank this team enough for all the effort that they’ve put out on the field. A lot of people say that having a new coach (automatically) means a rebuilding year, but we dove straight into it and made the season worthwhile. We made the playoffs and set the foundation for the next class, to keep this tradition going."
North had very few scoring opportunities in the game and were unable to capitalize on those rare chances. A bad snap on a field goal attempt in the first quarter prevented North from taking a quick lead. Trailing 13-0 with 3:02 remaining in the second quarter, the Raiders failed on a fourth-down conversion inside the Archer 20-yard line. The Tigers then surged down the field and added another touchdown just before halftime, making the score 20-0.
North suffered a second failed fourth down conversion in the third quarter deep inside Tiger territory, allowing Archer to drive down the field again and boost their lead to 27-0 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
The Raiders would score a late touchdown through the air when Gottberg found Zac Slaton open downfield for a 48-yard touchdown pass, putting North on the board 34-7 and preventing the shut-out .
As the game clock finally hit 0:00, the Archer faithful rushed the field to congratulate their team on its first playoff win. Although North’s season ended in a first-round defeat, the overall accomplishments of the season were not forgotten by the coach.
"Any time you have a winning record and make the playoffs, you want to say that it’s been a successful season," Galt said. "As a coach, you always look back at the ‘what ifs’, if we had done this or done that differently. There are not any regrets, but you still have to self-evaluate and try not to make the same mistakes twice. The foundation has been set and we’re just hoping to build on it. North Forsyth is a proud school and a proud community and I think we’re heading in the right direction."