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End of 1st Quarter: An in-depth look at Weeks 1-3
Chris Herock 09-02-22
North Forsyth senior defensive lineman Chris Herock (55) celebrates with teammates after a strip sack against West Forsyth during a non-region matchup Sept. 2 at home. (Photo by Robin Patterson)

With one-fourth of the high school football regular season complete, these are the players, games and storylines that have defined the opening stretch of the 2022 campaign in Forsyth County.


1. Legit Longhorns

Coming off a 2021 playoff berth and returning an impressive collection of seniors, Lambert likely looked at this year as a chance to put together a special season. Promoting Marc Beach from within is looking like a genius move, as the Longhorns sit at 3-0 through three weeks and currently occupy the top spot in the FCN public school football power rankings. There were some question marks surrounding Lambert following a rough scrimmage, albeit against an extremely talented Walton team. But the Longhorns have answered all of them in the first quarter of the season, outscoring their opponents by a 117-33 margin so far. The schedule will get tougher moving forward. However, Lambert possesses the offensive firepower, the defensive resolve and the special teams talent needed to put itself in position to challenge for a home playoff game.

2. Resilient Raiders

Heartbreaking losses can absolutely derail a season. In the case of North Forsyth, it's possible that a gut-wrenching defeat to North Atlanta in the Corky Kell Classic lit a fire under the Raiders that could carry them to a big year. Coming off the setback, which saw North Atlanta score a go-ahead touchdown with a minute to go, North Forsyth has reeled off wins over rivals Forsyth Central and West Forsyth — the latter of which saw the Raiders overcome a 24-7 deficit midway through the third quarter. Turnovers have been an issue for the offense, but the defense forces its fair share, as well. If anything, North Forsyth is probably wishing it was still a member of Region 6-7A since the Raiders have beaten two of the league's current members. That being said, they appear to be one of the main challengers to Gainesville, another former 6-7A team, in Region 8-6A.

3. Private schools split

Through three weeks, each of the three private school varsity football teams find themselves with 1-1 records in GAPPS action. Pinecrest Academy, the lone 11-man football private program among the locals, opened with a 21-0 victory over Notre Dame Academy but suffered a rough 47-7 loss to Calvary Christian the following week. Horizon Christian suffered a hard-fought 48-42 loss to Holy Spirit Prep in Week 1. Following a bye week, the Warriors bounced back with a resounding 31-0 triumph at New Creation Christian. As for Fideles Christian, the Rangers picked up a 39-20 win in region play against Johnson Ferry Christian in Week 2 following an open date. Fideles couldn't quite match the result in its first road game, falling 42-32 at King's Way Christian. Moving forward, all three teams should have the talent to make successful playoff pushes.

4. Injury bug

It's an unfortunate but unavoidable part of the game. Before the season even started, South Forsyth found itself behind the eight ball. The War Eagles kicked off their season opener against Lanier with three preseason all-county picks not in pads. Two-way lineman Nathan Efobi, a member of GHSF Daily's Georgia Power 100, returned in Week 2 to help South Forsyth edge Harrison. However, brothers Chris and Josh Nelson — two of the fastest players in the area — remain sidelined. Their absence is felt on both sides of the ball, and the Nelsons will no doubt provide a spark upon their return. The War Eagles aren't the only team stung by the injury bug to key players, as every program has dealt with it to a degree. Most notably, Denmark quarterback Jacob Nelson left the team's season opener with a collarbone injury. The junior hasn't played since.

5. Fine margins

The difference between winning and losing often comes down to a few big plays. There already have been a few instances of Forsyth teams coming up just short in games this year, but how tightly contested they were does bode well for the local sides moving forward, as long as they learn important lessons. Issues on special teams derailed South Forsyth in a 7-6 loss to North Oconee and hurt West Forsyth in its seven-point defeat against Marietta. Turnovers wound up being a key factor in the Wolverines' subsequent setback against North Forsyth. The Raiders, meanwhile, dealt with costly turnovers in their season-opening defeat versus North Atlanta. On the flip side, strong defensive performances help overcome some of those issues, with South Forsyth, Denmark and East Forsyth all winning one-score games while allowing 21 or fewer points.


Isaac Bealer, Horizon quarterback

Through two games, Bealer is putting up video game numbers. Now, it should be reiterated that playing in the GAPPS 8-man football league affords the junior more space to work with. That shouldn't diminish what he has done thus far. In Week 1, Bealer accounted for 409 total yards, including 157 on the ground, and six touchdowns (3 passing, 3 rushing). He followed that up with 209 passing yards and five scores — all in the first half — in Week 3.

Jayce Todaro, Forsyth Central running back

Todaro produced one of the best individual performances of the season in Week 1. His four rushing touchdowns against Chattahoochee will be hard for anyone to match this year. He's since found the end zone three more times, accounting for all of Forsyth Central's TDs against North Forsyth and Etowah. While he's benefitted from helpful short-yardage situations, the junior should remain one of the county's top offensive players moving forward.

James Tyre, Lambert quarterback

This trio of players is listed in alphabetical order, but Tyre would be considered the front-runner for offensive player of the year at this stage. Part of that is due to his team's success. However, his stats certainly back it up. The senior signal-caller boasts a 7:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, while throwing for 626 yards through three games. Against Dawson County, Tyre set school records in passing yards (329) and passing touchdowns (4).


Brock Barbee, Pinecrest linebacker

The two-way standout scored Pinecrest's first touchdown of the season on a 2-yard touchdown run, but Barbee's biggest impact in the win arguably came from his ability to constantly disrupt Notre Dame Academy plays in the backfield. He recorded an 8-yard tackle for loss, a 6-yard tackle for loss and a 5-yard sack. Despite coming in a losing effort, the senior shined in Week 2, posting 18 tackles and gaining 160 yards on 12 offensive touches.

Riley McKee, West Forsyth linebacker

While he doesn't have the raw tackle numbers of teammate Raleigh Herbert, who already has 26 total stops this season, McKee has shown a knack for making the impact plays that often decide games. The senior currently boasts 18 tackles, with five TFLs and a team-high three sacks. He recovered a fumble against Archer and did so again versus North Forsyth — the latter leading to a 34-yard scoop-and-score touchdown.

Collin Miller, North Forsyth linebacker

A steady presence in the middle of the field, the senior has posted eight, nine and seven tackles, respectively, in the Raiders' three games. He has two TFLs, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Miller doesn't tote the rock quite as much as Barbee, but he's made the most of his touches, scoring five total touchdowns. Following a hat-trick of rushing scores in Week 1, he's found the end zone once each versus rivals Forsyth Central and West Forsyth.


East Forsyth's historic start

There were signs that East Forsyth would make significant strides in Year 2 under veteran head coach Brian Allison, who recorded his 150th career win this past week. The Broncos went toe-to-toe with a solid White County program in their preseason scrimmage. East Forsyth, predictably, cruised to a victory at home in its season opener against a Seckinger program that is in its first year. However, the true test came in Week 3, when the Broncos hit the road for the first region game in school history. (First-year GHSA football programs aren't allowed to play a region schedule.) Laughably pegged as a 35-point underdog for its trip to Cedar Shoals, East Forsyth overcame some adversity and rallied three different times before holding on for a 22-14 win and a historic 2-0 start.


Denmark 17, Cambridge 15

Nobody would have been overly surprised if the Danes had fallen to the Bears in their Week 2 matchup. Yes, Denmark had home-field advantage, but that's about the only conceivable edge the Danes held entering this contest. Cambridge came into the meeting as a top-10 team in Class 5A after an impressive 28-0 win over Creekview. (Last week, the Bears beat a solid Alpharetta side, making the loss to Denmark their lone defeat to date.) The Danes knew they would need to rely on their defense to carry them with wide receiver Kohl Yearwood having stepped into the starting quarterback role following an injury to starter Jacob Nelson. Well, all Yearwood did was lead a clutch late drive to set up Hamilton Diboyan's game-winning field goal as time expired.


North Forsyth 28, West Forsyth 24

There have certainly been several stellar games through just the first three weeks of the season. We're giving the nod to the best of the two intra-county matchups played thus far. Considering the intensity of the rivalry between the Raiders and the Wolverines, the game still managed to live up to the hype. West Forsyth took a 24-7 lead in the third quarter before North Forsyth pulled off a dramatic comeback in Raider Valley. The teams combined for three defensive touchdowns, offering the type of key momentum-swinging plays that make for memorable games, with one of those scores proving to be the game-winner. There wasn't any real late drama, as neither team scored over the final 7 minutes, 56 seconds, but in the end, North Forsyth did just enough to hang onto the Leatherhead Trophy for at least another year.


Remembering Roper

A lot of plays mentioned above put forth strong cases to be considered the best moment. But this seems like the perfect place to discuss a bigger-than-football moment that took place Week 1 during the Denmark-Roswell game televised statewide on GPB. Prior to the first offensive play from scrimmage for the Hornets, Roswell players held up five fingers in remembrance of Robbie Roper, the team's Class of 2022 quarterback who wore No. 5 and passed away during the offseason. Some Denmark players and coaches showed solidarity by joining in. After officials flagged the Hornets for delay of game, the Danes declined the penalty.