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BEST GAMES OF 2015-16: Nos. 6-10
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West Forsyth girls soccer scored twice in the final 20 minutes to defeat Harrison in the semifinals of the Class AAAAAA playoffs to reach the state championship game for the first time in program history. - photo by File photo

Do you know how good you have it, Forsyth County?

We are spoiled, really, with athletes and coaches that coalesce into strong teams, and when those teams meet they often collide in compelling competition. Add packed crowds and high stakes, and it made for a 2015-16 school year filled with incredible games.

Which brings us to our now annual tradition of the Forsyth County News sports staff ranking our 10 favorite games of the school year, a daunting task considering all the material county teams provide.

Here are Nos. 6-10.

10. Carnahan vs. Billings at Region 6 meet

South Forsyth’s Savannah Carnahan and Northview’s Lindsay Billings spent their entire high school careers running against each other, so by the time their final region matchup came along at the Region 6 meet at West Forsyth, there was no doubt their faceoff in the 3,200-meter run would be a highlight of the meet. Carnahan and Billings rode each other’s hips well ahead of the pack after the first few laps, but Carnahan fell behind at a steady pace midway through the race. At one point it appeared Billings had sealed the victory, but Carnahan was—in hindsight—saving her energy for a final burst.

Overcoming blistering heat, Carnahan turned a 20-yard deficit into a 15-yard deficit as the runners came around to the homestretch of the last lap. Then, with just 50 yards to go, Carnahan burst into a sprint and cleared Billings by half a second to claim the top medalist honor for the event. Carnahan’s storied South career is now done, but she’ll continue running for Furman University in the fall.

- Michael Foster

9. Trion at Pinecrest Academy football

Full disclosure: I spent the first hours of Friday night on Sept. 18 at North Forsyth, then booked it at halftime over to Pinecrest. The Paladins were due to be featured on our DRIVE OF THE WEEK series, so I was hoping to interview head coach Todd Winter after a victory to give it the feel-good angle. Instead, I found Pinecrest trailing 21-7 going into the fourth quarter. Yikes.

My dread turned to elation over the final 6 minutes 35 seconds of the fourth quarter as Pinecrest miraculously came back to tie the game. Ryan McCarthy threw an 18-yard touchdown pass, then returned a punt 80 yards to tie the game. After holding Trion to a field goal in the overtime’s first possession, Pinecrest needed just three plays to score for a thrilling victory – and it saved our DRIVE OF THE WEEK.

- Brian Paglia

8. Tucker at South Forsyth football

South Forsyth had already defied odds by defeating two-time state champion Norcross a week before. With the perception of Gwinnett vs. Forsyth turned on its head, the War Eagles then turned their attention to another metro-Atlanta power in the Tucker Tigers, who also had two state titles under their belt since 2008.

South had a 42-28 lead in the fourth, but Tucker scored a touchdown and then marched to the War Eagles’ 6-yard line with less than three minutes to go. A goal-line stand halted the comeback and sent the South crowd into a frenzy, and senior tailback Sam Outlaw put the exclamation point on the win with a bulldozing run. Quarterback Davis Shanley had scoring runs of 68 and 70 yards, and Outlaw had an 87-yard touchdown of his own as South showcased its high-powered offense on the big stage. They fell the following week against Colquitt County, who eventually won the Class AAAAAA state title.

- Michael Foster

7. West Forsyth at South Forsyth girls basketball

For the 2015-16 school year, this was what has become an annual tradition of top-10 ranked girls basketball teams from Forsyth stealing the spotlight for one night of the regular season. When West travelled to South on Jan. 19, the Lady Wolverines were ranked No. 10 in Class AAAAAA, the Lady War Eagles No. 6. More importantly, both were undefeated in Region 6.

The county’s biggest basketball crowd of the season saw a show. Eventual Maryland signees Sarah Myers (24 points) and Jenna Staiti (46 points on 18 of 21 shooting) dazzled, and the game came down to the final possession when West threw away a last-second chance to tie the game on a 3 as South defeated its rival 65-62.

- Brian Paglia

6. West Forsyth at Harrison soccer

West Forsyth girls soccer was just 7-9 a season ago. Heading into 2016, the Lady Wolverines knew they had talent, but had little expectation with top-ranked Lambert, along with Johns Creek and South Forsyth in the same region. So, as West escaped each game with a victory—many of them close—the “is this real?” reaction was common from players.

That was the same reaction they had after scoring two goals in the final 20 minutes of play to escape Harrison with a 2-1 win in the state semifinals, marking the first time the program advanced to a state title game. Brooke Micham scored the equalizer off a deflection near the net, then Arkansas commit Brooke Pirkle fired a free kick from the top of the box that cleared Harrison’s keeper. West clamped down, holding on as the anxious crowd grew louder and louder. Even though West fell in the state final, it was a historical victory for a young program.

- Michael Foster