Forsyth wrestlers come away with three state titles
Forsyth County had three wrestlers compete at the GHSA state traditional finals in Macon on Feb. 16 in North Forsyth’s Sophia Eglian and Paul Watkins and Pinecrest Academy’s Mark Metz.
It turned out to be a very historic day: Competing at 146, Eglian pinned Stephenson’s Kiomy Morris in less than a minute, and in doing so, became the first-ever girls wrestling state champion from Forsyth County. Watkins was making his fourth trip to state as a senior with one last chance at a state title, and with a slim 1-0 victory over North Gwinnett’s Rex McDaniel, he finally earned his championship at 145 pounds.
Competing at 106 pounds, Metz took a 4-1 win over Gordon Lee’s Bryce James to win the title, Pinecrest’s first GHSA championship in any sport.
North softball makes a run to state
With almost everyone from 2018’s Region 5-7A championship team returning for another ride, expectations were high for North Forsyth softball heading into the 2019 season.
The Raiders didn’t disappoint, finishing the season with a school record 31 wins, a second consecutive region title and an appearance in the GHSA state tournament in Columbus. North could swing the bat with the best of them, with Georgia Tech commit Mallorie Black leading an explosive offense that averaged 8.3 runs per game.
North lost to eventual Class 7A state champion Mountain View in the first game of the tournament. The Raiders bounced back to beat Parkview in their next game, but were eliminated with a loss to Etowah.
North football tops Central in double OT
Throughout the offseason, North Forsyth’s football team had stressed making the extra plays needed to win close games, something they couldn’t quite do in 2018.
But in their first region game of the season against Forsyth Central, it briefly looked like the Raiders would again be on the receiving end of some bad luck when they missed a last-second 23-yard field goal at the end of regulation, sending the game into the county’s only overtime of the year.
Both teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime, and in the second, Central’s Jake Bretz hauled in a Bronson Landreth pass to retake the lead. North’s Patrick Corrigan responded with a bruising touchdown run. After a penalty on Central put the ball at the 1 for the PAT, North coach Robert Craft rolled the dice with a make-or-break two-point conversion attempt. Corrigan delivered again, spurring a celebration of a 29-28 victory that set the tone for the rest of the Raiders’ season.
Lambert girls tennis captures a state title after a delay
The GHSA state tennis championships didn’t pan out exactly how Lambert, or any team for that matter, expected.
The Longhorns, who were matched up with Region 5-7A foe Milton for the Class 7A title, began their matchup at the Rome Tennis Center well by jumping out to a 2-1 team lead. Lambert’s No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams were just getting underway when a heavy rain began to fall, which ultimately postponed the rest of the day’s matches.
Lambert resumed its matchup with the Eagles at their home courts, but after the Longhorns’ No. 2 doubles team fell in three sets to tie it up at 2-2, it was all on the No. 1 duo of Taylor Despriet and Katie Lewis to clinch the state title. Resuming their match in a 1-0 hole, the two fought back with two straight set wins, breaking serve three times in the last game.
Denmark boys basketball wins a region title in first season
Like every other athletic team at Denmark, the boys basketball team entered their inaugural season with no expectations and no seniors. But right from the beginning, the Danes had the look of a team that could at least make some noise.
They did much more than that, though. Behind the play of point guard Sutton Smith and the size around him with players like Ze’Vian Capers and Adonnis Tolbert, the Danes entered the Region 7-4A tournament as the No. 3 seed behind known heavyweights Marist and Blessed Trinity. Although Denmark couldn’t beat Blessed Trinity in the regular season, the Danes broke through when it mattered most, beating the Titans 46-43 in the region semifinals.And against Marist in the finals, Denmark became a region basketball champion in its first season of competition, taking a 57-45 win. The Danes made it all the way to the Class 4A quarterfinals against Woodward Academy, where they finally fell.
North girls basketball makes it back to the semis
With just one senior on their roster, it seemed like North Forsyth’s girls basketball team had a tough task ahead of them if they were to get back to the semifinal round they reached in 2018.
The Raiders had lost players like Cassie Markle and Kate Perryman, both of which were 6-foot and above, along with Catherine Shope, who was the best player in the region the year before. But despite that, North retooled around a blueprint of success that was led by guards Caroline Martin and Ansley Allen.
That strategy worked out very well: The Raiders cruised to the Region 5-7A title with a 10-0 record, and in the postseason, they blasted Newton before taking closer victories over Duluth and Roswell to clinch another trip to the Final Four. North ran into the same opponent it lost to in 2018 though, a stacked and undefeated Westlake team, where their run again ended with a 48-26 loss. It wasn’t the finale the Raiders wanted, but their second straight deep postseason run spoke dividends about the overall strength of the program.
West girls lacrosse beats Johns Creek in thriller to reach Final Four
Led by sophomore attacker Cami Merkel, the Wolverines were a force to be reckoned with all season, winning their area with a 6-0 record. After thrashing Brookwood and Allatoona by a combined score of 36-10, West faced Johns Creek for a chance to reach the state semifinal round for the first time in school history.
West was sloppy out of the gate against the Gladiators, though, and while Merkel was able to get the ball in the net three times in the first half, the Wolverines trailed 6-3 at the break. In the second half, West tied the game twice, but Johns Creek scored two goals in five minutes for a 9-7 lead with 1:36 to play.
The Wolverines did what they had to do to force overtime, though, tying the game at 9-9 right before the end of regulation with goals off penalties from Merkel and Reagan Wawrek. In the sudden death period that followed, goalkeeper Kylie Jamison made three critical saves, and with just 5.4 seconds left in the extra period, Merkel scored the golden goal to finally push West to a 10-9 win and the Final Four.
Lambert boys soccer notches second straight state title
The Longhorns cruised through their 2019 season, only taking one loss in the regular season in penalties against North Gwinnett. But in the end, Lambert reached the state title game with a chance to repeat as state champions, and ultimately did so at the end of a contest with three goals in the last nine minutes.
Lakeside-DeKalb didn’t make that task easy. The Vikings made goalkeeper Chris Smith work, and heading into the last minutes of regulation, the match was still scoreless. With nine minutes to play, Tyler Nadiak finally put Lambert ahead to send the Longhorns into celebration. That feeling didn’t last long, though, with Lakeside finally getting a shot past Smith to tie it up just a few minutes later.
It looked like the game would enter extra time, but with just a minute left to play, Yeonsung Lee, who had just come off the bench, scored after a ricochet off the goalpost sailed towards him. After running out the clock, Lambert celebrated their second consecutive state championship.
North football comes back to stun Brookwood in the playoffs
It was all over for North Forsyth in the first round of the playoffs against Brookwood on Nov. 15, or so it seemed.
The Raiders faced a daunting 34-9 deficit at halftime, but in their opening drive of the third quarter, quarterback Brady Meitz connected with Nicky Dalmolin three times, including a passing touchdown that cut the Broncos’ lead to 34-17.
Brookwood responded with a touchdown of its own on the next possession, but from then on, it was all North. Meitz and Dalmolin connected on a 32-yard score with around a minute left in the third, and in the fourth, Dalmolin hauled in a 45-yard bomb for his fourth touchdown of the game. Brookwood’s defense fell apart, and luck was also on the Raiders’ side, as they recovered an onside kick that led to Patrick Corrigan’s game-winning touchdown that sent North to the second round for the first time in 18 years.
Denmark baseball embarks on a wild run to state championship
The diamond Danes entered their first-ever season of competition as a young, inexperienced group with no seniors, and for much of the season, their results in the win/loss column reflected that. Denmark started their Region 7-4A slate with a 1-6 record, with one more loss eliminating the Danes from postseason contention. To reach the playoffs, they had to win all five of their remaining games.
And that’s exactly what they did, defying the odds to make the Class 4A tournament as a No. 4 seed. From there, Denmark’s run became even more improbable. The Danes had to travel for every round of the playoffs, but that didn’t matter: They swept Northwest Whitfield and St. Pius X Catholic before taking down West Laurens and Blessed Trinity in three games. Blessed Trinity, a region foe, was a favorite to win state before the season began.
Denmark fell to Northside-Columbus in two games at the 4A state championship series in Rome, but the season was nevertheless a start to the program that the Danes couldn’t have imagined months before, and marked just the second time a first-year baseball program in Georgia reached that point.