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The North Forsyth girls basketball team celebrates after beating Hillgrove in the state quarterfinals on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at North Forsyth High School. - photo by Lily McGregor Photography

Scott Tilden felt significantly more prepared and in control as North Forsyth’s athletic director during this past school year, his second in that role.

The hiccups during Tilden’s first year taking over for Nathan Turner, now the county’s athletic director, weren’t due to problems with the school, necessarily – just the learning curve and lack of an exact roadmap for the ever-evolving role of an AD.

“I didn’t have as many GHSA fines this year as I did last year because I failed to turn something in,” Tilden said with a laugh.

Yes, 2017-18 was smoother from an administrative standpoint for the Raiders, and the progress was also visible in the Region 5-7A standings. North’s improvement in the Regions Director’s Cup standings wasn’t massive – the program was 28th overall this year, up from 30th in 2017 – but the Raiders saw a number of breakthroughs in team sports.

During the preseason, the Raiders’ football team talked up the possibility of a return to the state playoffs in head coach Robert Craft’s second year, and they did that, securing a No. 4 seed. The volleyball team, under the second-year head coaching duo of Drew and Kelly Cecil, reached the state quarterfinals, coming back from a two-set deficit against North Gwinnett in the second round to do so.

And the most exciting postseason run of any county team all year might have been that of the Raiders’ girls basketball team, which leaned on the stellar guard duo of Caroline Martin and Catherine Shope to reach the state semifinals, becoming the third county school since 2014 to do so.

The wrestling team continued to be a standard-bearer for the county, third at state duals and second in traditional, with Conner Carrol winning the title at 160 pounds. The rifle team finished seventh in the state, and the competition cheerleading team took sixth place in the fall, and boys golf finished seventh in the state.

It’s certainly enough to keep Tilden talking about one of his favorite subjects.

“We have a great coaching staff, and you’re going to hear me say that over and over and over again,” he said.

Editor’s note: Responses and questions have been edited for length and clarity.

FCN: The girls basketball and volleyball teams both made headlines with big breakthrough seasons this year. What have you seen from those coaches that helped those teams make the leap?

Tilden: Coach Herrick and his staff do a great job ... and coach Cecil, same thing. He has created a great staff that does a great job for him as well. I think the key for them is what they do in the offseason. As soon as the season ends, they're jumping right into the offseason and developing players. Coach Herrick has been here for some time, so we've seen the players develop from him over the years, and we're seeing the same thing now happen in volleyball, as the Cecils are developing players as well.

So really, it's just a result of all the hard work and effort that the coaching staffs are putting in, and the players are responding to that, putting in that same hard work and the ultimate result is a successful season. They do a great job. 

FCN: When boys basketball head coach Brian Moon stepped down, he said he wanted there to be more interest in the sport and the program. What was your reaction to hearing him say that was something he had to deal with?

Tilden: Coach Moon's a great guy, and I think he gave his heart to the program. He did everything he could do, and I think for coach Moon, he felt like, after seven years, for whatever reason, he had just not been able to garner the kind of interest that he wanted garnered from the players. And it wasn't that way the whole time. I think in his early years, I think he was getting what he wanted to get. And then as things progressed or whatever, we had some down years. I think coach Moon came to the realization that hey, maybe it's time for a change, for whatever reason he wants to subscribe that to.

I think he just felt like it was time for a change, and I wish the best for him and his family. I'm glad to see that he's now down at North Middle School and he's going to be with that program. You can't have a better guy developing your feeder program than coach Moon. I think sometimes that change is good, and maybe that was needed for coach Moon. He'll go down there and give the same effort and bring the same work ethic to that position at the middle school that he brought here. 

North Forsyth's Conner Carroll reacts after winning the Class 7A state championship at 160 pounds at the GHSA Traditional Wrestling State Championship on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. - photo by Lily McGregor Photography
FCN: There was some hope that changes in the girls soccer landscape, like the Development Academy program, would help the programs here take a step forward. That wasn’t immediately visible this past spring, but do you see ingredients for a breakthrough there?

Tilden: Sure I do. I think you saw it this year. I think we already saw progress made this year. It may not show up so much in wins. If you look at the scores we had this year, both on the girls and the boys side, there were many games with Lambert, let's say, where we were tied up going into overtime. So we were much more competitive this year than we've been in some time. And I think that's a credit again to coach Steinberg and his staff and his players and the work ethic they're putting forth and the progress they've made.

Yeah, we don't see it necessarily in the wins and losses aspect of it, especially in region play. I think we were very competitive non-region, but in region play, we struggled a little bit. This is a great region for soccer. But if you look at our scores compared to previous years, I think we were more competitive this year than we've been in some time. So if we continue that route and that progress, I think we'll continue to be competitive, and I think we'll see a result in more wins overall. 

FCN: With Denmark now close to opening, some discussion is moving to the eventual opening of an “East Forsyth” high school, which could have a significant effect on North. Have you thought about what would happen there?

Tilden: Sure. How could you not, when you see what's going on with Denmark, and the effect it's having on South, the effect it's having on West? Yeah, I'm already looking at the proposed lines, and what they look like, and which neighborhood's going to go where. So yeah, you can't help but think about the effect of what's going to happen with North Forsyth.

I think ultimately, it's going to be a positive. We're going to move a little bit westward, I think, from what today may be considered West Forsyth's district. I think we'll get a little bit of that. Right now, we get about 10 percent of the athletes from Liberty Middle School up to North Forsyth. I think you're going to see that go to 100 percent … If East opens at the time we think it's going to open, with the bond passing, it looks like something that we're going to be looking forward to. So yeah, it'll have an effect on us. I think ultimately, it's going to be something that'll be a good thing.