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End of 3rd Quarter: An in-depth look at Weeks 7-9
Hayden Mock celebration 10-14-22
South Forsyth's Hayden Mock celebrates a win Friday at Denmark. (Photo by Jay Rooney Photography)

With three-fourths of the high school football regular season complete, these are the players, games and storylines that defined the third quarter of the 2022 campaign in Forsyth County.


1. Lambert defense continues to shine

It's easy to point to Lambert's offense as the key to its 7-0 start and top spot in the FCN power rankings. After all, the object of the game is to score more points than the other team, and the Longhorns' average of 35-plus points per game helps get that accomplished. However, it's been the defensive improvement that is making the biggest difference for the team this season. Since its winless 2019 campaign, when Lambert allowed nearly 40 points per game, the program has steadily improved on that side of the ball. In 2020, the average dropped to 31.40. Last year, it fell to 19.73. This season, it's all the way down to 13.43, which ranks among the best marks in Class 7A. The unit is forcing turnovers at a high clip, including four against West Forsyth and two versus Forsyth Central. Overall, the defense has forced 10 turnovers this season.

2. Won and done

Due to a scheduling quirk, North Forsyth played each of the first six weeks of the season, and then took off Weeks 7 and 9. In between, the Raiders put together a very matter-of-fact win against Lanier. North Forsyth didn't do anything flashy. Coming off its first bye week, the Raiders just ground out a 21-7 victory before going back on hiatus. After needing to rally late in each of its first two Region 8-6A contests, it had to feel nice for Robert Craft and Co. to lead throughout. Even though the Longhorns certainly stayed in the game, the hosts always seemed to be in control. Next up is a potential trap game against Habersham Central. A de facto region championship game against Gainesville is on the docket next week, but North Forsyth (5-2, 3-0) would certainly prefer to enter that contest with as much positive momentum as possible.

3. Private schools split, again

If you go back to our review of the season's first quarter, you will see that each of the three local private school football teams went 1-1 during the opening stretch of games. Well, it's happened again. It seems that Fideles Christian, Horizon Christian and Pinecrest Academy could all be decidedly average this season. At the moment, the Rangers are 4-3, while the Warriors and Paladins each sit at 3-4. Over the previous three weeks, Fideles Christian fell to Lafayette Christian before bouncing back with a win over Horizon. The Warriors, meanwhile, rebounded from their defeat to the Rangers to top Johnson Ferry Christian. Pinecrest thrashed Community Christian but came up short against Creekside Christian. The home stretch will be important, as each team plays GAPPS region games that could decide postseason fates.

4. Broncos still in the race

East Forsyth's 48-0 loss to North Oconee wasn't pretty, but it also wasn't altogether unexpected. The Titans are the No. 2 team in Class 4A and are running away with the Region 8-4A title. There are three other playoff berths up for grabs, and the Broncos are right in the mix for one of them. A business-like 45-0 triumph over East Hall and a hard-fought 14-7 victory against Cherokee Bluff preceded the loss to North Oconee, making it an overall good three-week stretch for East Forsyth. Entering its final run, which includes home games against Madison County and North Hall sandwiched around a trip to Chestatee, the Broncos are tied for third at 3-2. Madison County is also 3-2, while North Hall and Cedar Shoals, which has already lost to East Forsyth, are 3-3. A 2-1 finish should be enough to get the Broncos into the playoffs.

5. Down but not out

Denmark's chances of repeating as Region 6-7A champion took a massive hit following a 10-3 loss to South Forsyth in a rematch of the game that essentially decided the 2021 winner. The Danes won last year's championship with one loss — ironically, a defeat to a Gainesville program that didn't even reach the playoffs — so falling to the War Eagles is not the death knell that it might be in some other regions. Denmark doesn't completely control its own fate. However, with matchups remaining against the only two unbeaten teams in the region (Lambert and Milton), the Danes have a chance to wreak some havoc. South Forsyth has already fallen to Milton, meaning Denmark is only really one game back of the War Eagles instead of two. The region title race is far from over, and the Danes still find themselves in the thick of it.


Will Maher, Horizon Christian quarterback/wide receiver

It doesn't matter what role he fills, Maher makes plays for the Warriors. Against Fideles Christian, the junior finished as Horizon's top wide receiver, hauling in four passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. In the most recent matchup against Johnson Ferry Christian, Maher made his season debut at quarterback. All he did in that contest was throw for 309 yards and five touchdowns on 19-of-29 passing. Future opponents take notice.

West Roberts, North Forsyth quarterback

Roberts has thrown four touchdowns on two separate occasions this season, but the senior's performance against Lanier is notable for one main reason: no turnovers. Throwing the ball nearly 30 times a game is bound to lead some interceptions. However, Roberts managed to finish 20-for-28 passing with no picks against the Longhorns. Without many chunk plays, he only threw for 193 yards, with a long of 24, but sometimes that's what is needed.

Alex Tadros, Fideles Christian quarterback

Tadros is a quarterback almost in name only. He's a superior athlete who the Rangers want to have touching the ball on every snap. In a key win over Horizon Christian, Tadros really leaned into the running side of his dual-threat ability. The junior racked up 232 yards on the ground, averaging 13.65 yards on his 17 carries. Stats weren't available for Fideles' 50-43 loss to Lafayette Christian, but given the score, it's likely Tadros ran wild.


Brock Barbee, Pinecrest linebacker

Barbee is the first player to be featured twice in this space. We try to recognize different players stepping up and making contributions, but it's impossible to ignore a 23-tackle performance like the one Barbee managed against Creekside Christian. He also contributed 116 yards from scrimmage in the defeat. The week prior, he produced a sack and batted a pass that a teammate picked off, plus scored two touchdowns, in a win.

Nathan Efobi, South Forsyth defensive lineman

Arguably the top two-way player in the county, Efobi earned his team's defensive player of the week honor against Milton, totaling three tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. For his showing against Denmark, the senior joined his offensive line teammates in receiving the team's offensive player of the week award. He also spent plenty of time in Denmark's backfield, disrupting plays in key moments.

Joseph Tripp, Lambert linebacker

As noted above, the entire Longhorns defense has been tremendous the past two weeks. Tripp is one of the main leaders on that side of the ball, so his contributions go well beyond the box score. That being said, he put in a strong effort against Forsyth Central, finishing with six tackles and two tackles for loss. The senior put a cherry on top of the program's first win over West Forsyth since 2016, recovering a late fumble.


Lambert's pursuit of perfection

Since the season began, Lambert has been the team to beat in the county. The Longhorns opened the year by throttling a Sequoyah team that played Denmark extremely tough in a preseason scrimmage. Every challenge since then, Lambert has passed with flying colors. Given the way their first five games went, the Longhorns were expected to defeat Forsyth Central and West Forsyth in their initial Region 6-7A contests. Regardless, it should be noted just how remarkable it is that Lambert is on this path towards a possible undefeated regular season, which would be the first-ever by a Forsyth County public school. Just three years ago, the Longhorns went 0-10. Even though they are all at home, the final draw of Denmark, Milton and South Forsyth won't be easy, but neither is getting to 7-0.


South Forsyth 10, Denmark 3

It's not easy to beat Denmark at its own game. Cambridge, Harrison, Pebblebrook, Dacula and West Forsyth all found that out the hard way. South Forsyth, though, proved it has the strength in the trenches to match the Danes. It wasn't pretty. Frankly, it was downright ugly at times. The War Eagles struggled to protect Ty Watkins on more than a few occasions, but the offense moved the ball when it needed to run some clock and flip the field. The defense stymied the Denmark rushing attack and caused the Danes to struggle through the air, as well. Even the special teams unit made some big plays, including a blocked punt to set up the game's only touchdown. Winning on the road isn't easy, especially in region play, but South Forsyth managed to get it done, thanks to all three phases.


Horizon Christian 49, Johnson Ferry Christian 42

To be honest, there weren't a ton of great candidates for this honor with so many teams having open dates. Most of the other close games during Weeks 7-9 were low-scoring affairs, including South Forsyth's win versus Denmark (10-3), East Forsyth's victory against Cherokee Bluff and Fideles Christian's triumph over Horizon Christian (21-14). Also, to be fair, we discussed the South Forsyth game extensively in the previous section, and the East Forsyth contest will be focused on in the ensuing one. Following its narrow loss to its rival, the Warriors bounced back with a key victory against Johnson Ferry Christian. Will Maher made his first start at quarterback, throwing five touchdowns passes. Four of those TD tosses went to typical starting QB Isaac Bealer, including the game-winner.


East Forsyth avenges lopsided loss

There have been plenty of exciting times for East Forsyth this season. The Broncos won a season opener for the first time, had a winning streak for the first time and emerged with a region victory on their first chance. However, nothing has probably felt sweeter than East Forsyth's 14-7 win against Cherokee Bluff in Week 8. The Bears were the only 2022 opponent that the Broncos faced in their inaugural season, and they just so happened to hand East Forsyth its worst loss in a 59-0 rout. Needless to say, the Broncos didn't forget. They also didn't forget the lessons they learned in a narrow loss to Walnut Grove from earlier in the season. Brian Allison's crew will look to put its defeat to North Oconee in the rearview mirror, while building off its previous contest that showed how far they have come.