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Best games of 2018-19: No.s 5-1
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Lambert's Campbell Wilson lies on the pitch after the Longhorns beat Lakeside-DeKalb for the Class 7A boys soccer state championship on May 18, 2019 at McEachern High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

You didn’t think we forgot, did you?

Yes, the games on which we reminisced last week were certainly good ones that will be remembered years from now, but there were even better offerings from Forsyth County schools this school year.

There were five, to be exact, measured and ranked by our semi-exact system of analyzing the stakes and drama of each matchup. So let’s finish it up, so we can get on to anxiously awaiting the year ahead!

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Denmark's Nick Carozza catches the winning touchdown pass in the Danes' game against White County on Oct. 19, 2018 at Denmark High School. - photo by Ben Hendren

5. Denmark football prevails in thrilling back-and-forth with White County

In a way, the Denmark football team failed.

The Danes' potential playoff fate was at the front of their minds heading into their matchup with White County at home on Oct. 19, as Denmark's loss to West Hall on Sept. 28, the week of fall break, simply didn't fit in their margin for error.

So Denmark needed to beat the Indians, and they needed to do it by 12 points or more, to give them a potential tiebreaker in the playoff race. This point of emphasis was apparent in the Danes' play-calling early in the night, as they had three turnovers on downs in the first half, as they went for touchdowns rather than chip-shot field goals. That they trailed 14-0 after the first quarter and were missing two of their best receivers put Denmark even deeper in a hole. 

But the Danes soon showed a grit beyond their years. They tied it by halftime, and after going down a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Denmark receiver Ze'Vian Capers made what might have been the most spectacular play by any county player during the season, taking a slant over the middle 81 yards for a touchdown. 

The Indians hit back late, giving Denmark just 1:49 to score. And it was that drive on which Capers fully ascended to superstardom: He twice made catches on third downs, and a 16-yard catch set up the eventual game-winning connection from Ben Whitlock to Nick Carozza. 

In the end, things didn't work out for Denmark. The Danes' margin of victory was 28-27, depriving them of the tiebreaker they needed, and they wouldn't have gotten it anyway, receiving no help from other teams competing for the No. 4 seed. The mood after this game was of pure elation though, and the pure thrill of this victory no doubt played a big role in the huge momentum the Denmark program currently enjoys heading into its second season.

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The Lambert girls tennis team and head coach Lois Mickles celebrates with the state championship trophy after defeating Milton on May 6, 2019 at Lambert High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

4. Lambert girls tennis takes delayed state title win over Milton

The Lambert girls tennis team made the two-hour trip to Rome for the Class 7A state championship against Milton on May 4 and took a 2-1 lead, but did so as the wind picked up and dark storm clouds approached. Eventually, the rain started pouring, and after a delay, the remaining matchups in progress were postponed to the following Monday at Lambert.

Before play resumed on May 6, the No. 1 doubles pair of Taylor Despreit and Katie Lewis trailed 1-0 and were down in the second set, while the No. 2 team of Kate Dufresne and Kaitlyn Hoxie were knotted up with their Milton counterparts 1-1. But when the Longhorns’ No. 2 team lost to tie the overall matchup at 2-2, Lambert’s state title hopes fell on to the No. 1s as the gathered crowd huddled around their court.

Despreit and Lewis took a 6-4 victory in the second set to even the match. The third set wasn’t nearly as close, as the duo broke serve three times and took a much easier 6-2 win. After Milton’s return on the final point went wide, the Longhorns stormed the court and mobbed an exhausted Despreit, who celebrated not just a state title, but her birthday as well.

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Denmark's Sutton Smith goes up for a layup during the Danes' Region 7-4A basketball championship game against Marist on Feb. 9, 2019 at Chestatee High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

3. Denmark boys basketball beats Marist to win region title in first year

The signs of how interesting the first-year Denmark boys basketball team would be were visible early. The Danes beat West Forsyth, the No. 2 playoff seed from Region 5-7A, in their very first game, and they walloped Forsyth Central and South Forsyth, two more bigger, older Class 7A teams. 

And they were just as competitive as expected in Region 7-4A play. The only real sticking points for them were against Blessed Trinity and Marist, both of which beat the Danes the first time around. But Denmark beat Marist to finish the regular season, and they finally got the Titans, in the teams' third matchup, in the region tournament semifinals.

That brought up a complete toss-up matchup between the Danes and Marist in the region final at Chestatee. A robust student section gave Denmark a home-court feel even away from their gym, and while it was tight the whole way through, Danes led for most of the game, holding a 37-33 lead entering the fourth quarter. 

And then one of the most heart-stopping moments of the season happened. With just under 5:30 to play and Denmark leading 42-41, Marist's Kyle Hamilton gathered a loose ball and had a breakaway. He rose to the rim, ready to slam home a dunk to give the War Eagles both the lead and a huge injection of momentum, but his dunk attempt slammed off the back rim and flew backwards out of bounds. 

Denmark had it from there, and a court-storming ensued, with the school exulting in the blissful unexpectedness of celebrating a region title in its first year.

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West Forsyth's Cami Merkel celebrates after the Wolverines defeated Johns Creek in their Class 7A state quarterfinal matchup on May 9, 2019 at West Forsyth High School. - photo by Ben Hendren

2. West girls lacrosse wins thriller over Johns Creek to reach semifinals

The area champion Wolverines had one of the best seasons in school history this spring, with the high point being their quarterfinal matchup with Johns Creek, one of the top teams in the state and one that had beaten West earlier in the season.

Leading up to the two teams’ rainy matchup on May 5, Johns Creek had lost just two games on the season, and early in the game, it didn’t look like West could pull off the upset. The Wolverines came out of the locker room anxious and played a sloppy first half, but they trailed just 6-3 at halftime thanks to three goals from sophomore Cami Merkel.

The rejuvenated Wolverines tied it up twice at 6-6 and 7-7 early in the second half, but after two straight Johns Creek goals, West faced a two-point deficit with just three minutes to play.

West’s young group remained calm, though, and with 1:36 left, the Wolverines got a little lucky. Merkel was granted a penalty shot, and although the ball left her stick early, it rolled into the net to cut the Gladiator lead to one. With 1:17 to go, Reagan Wawrek scored her own penalty shot to tie the game at 9-9, setting up a sudden death overtime period. After three key saves from Kylie Jamison, Merkel netted the game’s golden goal with just 5.7 seconds left in overtime, sending the Wolverines into a frenzy.

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Lambert's Yeonsung Lee celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal for the Longhorns against Lakeside-DeKalb in the Class 7A boys soccer state championship game on May 18, 2019 at McEachern High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

1. Lee’s late goal secures Lambert boys soccer its second straight championship

For almost two entire halves, the Class 7A boys state championship game between Lambert and Lakeside-DeKalb was a scoreless stalemate. Bolstered by the stellar performance of goalkeeper Chris Smith, the Longhorns had been able to survive the Vikings’ early attack, but couldn’t mount their own.

That changed with nine minutes left in the second half, when Lambert’s Tyler Nadiak finally kicked a ball into the Lakeside’s net. At that point, it briefly looked like the Longhorns would cruise to their second straight state title, but just three minutes later, the Vikings finally got a shot past Smith, tying the game at 1-1 and putting the Longhorns’ celebration on hold.

The turn of events gave Lambert fans an unpleasant sense of déjà vu, as the heavily favored Longhorns girls’ game earlier in the evening went much the same way: A late Lambert goal, but a stunning equalizer soon after. That Lambert team wound up losing in penalties.

But the Longhorns boys were not depleted of resolve. Sophomore Yeonsung Lee, who watched the equalizer from the bench, was subbed in with three minutes left in regulation. With just a minute left until overtime, Hayden Fontana took a shot that bounced off the left post. Lee took the ricochet and sent a booming kick into the net for his first-ever playoff goal, and not long after that, the Longhorns celebrated their second straight Class 7A state title.