It wasn’t easy, but thanks to a couple of failed fourth-down conversions by Johns Creek late in the game, North Forsyth was able to hold onto a halftime lead and earn its first win of the season 14-13 at Raider Valley on Friday.
“Monkey off our backs,” North head coach Jason Galt said. “I’ve won a bunch of games in my career and lost a bunch of games in my career, and as far as feeling good after a victory this is one that ranks up there just because of all the adversity we’ve dealt with this year.”
North had a good first drive but was stymied once it reached the red zone and ended up missing a 40-yard field goal.
It was a good sign to see the Raiders successfully move the ball down the field, however, as they were able to finish off their next drive with an 11-yard touchdown by junior running back Jesus Torres (23 carries, 101 yards, TD).
Torres led the two-headed monster for North on the ground along with senior full back Jamal Davenport (10 carries, 65 yards). The duo accounted for 166 of North’s 210 yards on offense.
Johns Creek answered North’s touchdown with a touchdown of its own, but had the extra-point blocked.
“If we don’t block that extra-point the game could go into overtime,” Galt said. “That is something we work on every Wednesday.”
With 9:06 left in the second quarter, North went on an impressive 15-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that left only 42 seconds for Johns Creek to work with before the end of the half. The Raiders converted a fourth-and-2 and a fourth-and-1on the drive that resulted in a 12-yard touchdown run by junior running back Lance McGonigle.
“The key was to hold onto the ball,” Torres said. “We’ve had a lot of turnovers lately on offense and the key was really just to hold onto it and drive the clock down.”
Leading 14-6 at the half, North relied on its defense to carry it the rest of the way as the offense didn’t gain a single first down in the second half. Four possessions, four three-and-outs, but the defense rose to the challenge.
“They had to make plays and they did,” Galt said. “That’s a sign of a team that’s starting to figure it out. I wish we’d not waited this long to figure it out, but I think tonight we wanted it a little more than they did.”
The Gladiators pulled within two-points of North, 46 seconds into the fourth quarter, but elected to kick the extra point instead of going for two as a questionable celebration penalty after the touchdown placed the ball at the 17-yard line.
With 4:37 left in the game, North had the ball with a chance to run out the clock. A false start penalty on a fourth-and-1 where it appeared as if the Raiders we going to go for it, forced a punt. Junior punter Jacob Whitten came up clutch with a 46-yard punt that pinned Johns Creek at their own 11-yard line.
After forcing the second turnover on downs by Johns Creek on as many drives, junior quarterback Jacob Bailey took a knee and put the Raiders in the win column.
“Maybe the kids will start feeling a little better about themselves and when they have some adversity in the game, not to drop their heads and just keep fighting,” Galt said.
“This win gives us a lot of momentum and it keeps our heads up now,” Torres said.