JOHNS CREEK — North Forsyth scored 38 unanswered points to knock off Johns Creek and keep their playoff hopes alive on Friday night.
It was a tale of two halves in this contest. The Raiders (6-3, 3-3 in Region 6-AAAAAA) went down 21-0 in the first half but ended up dominating the still winless Gladiators by a score of 38-21 at The Coliseum.
"We stunk it up in the first half and we came to play in the second half," North head coach Jason Galt said. "It all falls on the head coach, not getting our guys prepared to play. All week long we preached not to underestimate them and not to take them lightly, but I guess I just didn’t do a good enough job to get them to understand that."
It was a 39-yard touchdown bomb from Cody Gottberg to Luke Slaton with five seconds left in the first half that proved to be the game-changing play. North still trailed by a score 21-7 going into the half, but that gave them all the confidence they needed.
"The touchdown late in the first half really gave us some momentum," Galt said. "There weren’t a lot of adjustments we had to make, we just had to get their minds right, to focus on the task at hand and find a way to win the football game. We just had to settle down and play football, and that’s what we did. That’s football, football is about momentum."
To that point, Johns Creek (0-9, 0-6) had all the momentum and was firing on all cylinders. The Gladiators had a well-balanced attack offensively that made it nearly impossible for North’s defense to get off the field in the first half. They went 7-for-9 on third down in the first half and recorded six first downs both through the air and on the ground.
"Coach said we just had to keep fighting and to not give up," senior linebacker Josh Petz said. "If this was a playoff game and we lost, we’d be done for the season. So just keep fighting."
But North settled down and dominated in the second half.
"We knew we were still in a position to win the game and we had them right where we wanted them," senior quarterback Cody Gottberg said. "We know we’re a second half team and we just had to come out and pound it down their throats in the second half."
In the third quarter, Johns Creek ran just six offensive plays for a total of zero yards.
Petz, among others, led the way for the Raiders defense that held Johns Creek to just 62 total yards and three first downs in the final two quarters, and junior defensive back Logan Cross also had an interception. And about half of those second half yards came on the Gladiators’’ final drive when the game was already in hand.
"It shows that we have a bunch of heart and we’ll do anything to win no matter what the cost," Gottberg said. "We have a bunch of guys that go all out and give it everything they’ve got on every play."
Gottberg put the offense on his back in second half of this game, getting the tough yards between the tackles. He finished the game with 19 carries for 121 yards and two touchdowns. He was also 2-for-7 passing for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Zach Slaton also added eight carries for 75 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Most importantly, this win for North sets up an intriguing final game of the season against their arch-rival, South Forsyth, with some serious playoff implications.
"This game against South is going to be the first game in a long time that means something at North Forsyth," Galt said. "If we win this game, we have a very good chance to make the playoffs. A few things still have to fall in place for us, but this game really means something and I think we’ll be focused all week long."