With this week’s upcoming graduation ceremonies, we’ll bid a fond farewell to another class of Forsyth County high school athletes that provided us with plenty of palm-sweat-producing, heart-pounding sports action. As is tradition, we’ll take this moment to pick the top 10 games of the school year.
There were certainly more than 10 noteworthy games and events this year, in every sport, but this list serves to examine those with the most drama and highest stakes. Ones with a blend of both – a win-or-lose final possession, a berth in the state championship hanging in the balance – stand the best chance of gaining a higher rank.
10. West soccer overcomes red card to top Central
Was the drama in this matchup the most pure kind, generated from high-quality play between two evenly-matched teams? Uh, not really. West’s first goal came with help from a botched save attempt, and the Wolverines went a man down in the second half when Aiden Mienert got a red card for exchanging unkind words with a referee. The Bulldogs equalized on a goal where West’s back line had pulled up and appealed for an offsides, and while Carlos Reyes put West ahead late in the half, Central equalized with five minutes remaining.
The Wolverines even fell behind in penalties, missing their first two attempts, but the Bulldogs missed their next three, and West got its first Region 5-7A victory. It wound up being a relatively inconsequential result, as the Bulldogs lost in the first round of the playoffs while the Wolverines missed the postseason, but it was certainly one of the wildest, weirdest matchups of the year.
9. South boys soccer surges back against Lambert in second half
These teams had one of the most anticipated meetings of the year, as they faced off in the championship game of the Class 7A playoffs, the first time two Forsyth County teams had met at that stage. That game ended 3-2 in the Longhorns’ favor, but it wasn’t terribly dramatic – Lambert held the majority of possession and led 3-1 for most of the second half before the War Eagles scored inside the final minute.
But the teams’ previous matchup certainly set the stage. The Longhorns went up 2-0 in the first half and 3-0 early in the second half, but the War Eagles threw aside their identity as a low-scoring, defense-based outfit and netted three goals in led than 30 minutes to tie the game. And if there’s one thing that the War Eagles did exceptionally well this season it was penalty kick shootouts – they won this one with help from two saves from keeper Aarnav Sandhu.
8. Central girls soccer blitzes Collins Hill in Class 7A playoff debut
The addition of the girls Development Academy level of club soccer this year flipped the region’s scene on its head, taking away a significant amount of top-end talent from South Forsyth and Lambert, which had ruled the region in 2017. In 2018, however, the War Eagles finished fourth and the Longhorns missed the playoffs altogether.
That left an opening for an experienced, high-scoring Bulldogs team to break out. Central nabbed the No. 2 playoff seed and an opening-round matchup at home, and that game began in disaster. Two early Collins Hill goals, on a missed clearance and a whiffed save attempt, put Central in a 2-0 hole in the first half.
“I was very afraid, honestly,” Central’s Jenna Uldrich said after the game.
But a stretch of 15 minutes of play changed all of that. Morgan Dech and Alexis Sherman scored in the last five minutes of the second half, and less than 10 minutes into the second, Hannah Hamilton and Uldrich had both converted to give Central a 4-2 lead, which it would maintain from then.
7. Lambert boys basketball stuffs West in second half of region championship
Wolverines head coach Fred Hurt had one of the most praised overall performances this year, leading West to its first-ever winning season, where the program secured a No. 2 playoff seed. West really started turning heads with two regular-season wins over Lambert, where the Wolverines ran alongside the Longhorns’ tempo-pushing offense and relied on solid wing play to come out on top both times.
These teams met in the region championship game at South, and the first half was much like their first two meetings, with West leading 42-37. Lambert’s eventual second-half turnaround, as point guard Mitch Ganote saw it, came down to defense and rebounding. The Longhorns did both so well, it turned out, that the Wolverines scored just 10 points in the final two quarters, and they went one stretch of almost 13 minutes without a point. It was an unforgettable defensive effort, and Lambert came away with a 71-52 win and the region title.
6. North volleyball climbs out of hole against North Gwinnett
This past season was unequivocally considered a breakout for the Raiders, with an undefeated run through region play and a 39-10 record, the program’s best ever. But a disappointing loss in the area championship match to Lambert had put North on the road for its second-round playoff matchup, and the Raiders then fell in a 2-0 hold to North Gwinnett.
North was determined to avenge its loss to the Bulldogs in the same round in last year’s playoff, and as they did numerous times throughout the year, the Raiders leaned on the ball control of Logan Taft and the creative hitting of Maddie Bryant to take the next three sets and set another milestone, advancing to the state quarterfinals.