Come Friday evening, the silver helmets will meet gold in the most anticipated football game of the 2015 football season in Forsyth County—so far. Only one team will leave “The Den” later that night with the luster of a streaking winner.
South Forsyth is 6-0—the first time in its history, which dates back to 1989—but if the War Eagles want to remain unscathed they’ll have to defeat the West Forsyth Wolverines (4-2, 4-1 Region 6-AAAAAA) for the first time ever. South head coach Jeff Arnette has taken three previous cracks at the Wolverines, falling 56-14 in 2012, 45-20 in 2013 and 27-14 last season.
“It’s going to be an exciting game,” Arnette said. “West has a great team, coaching staff, and athletes. We’re going to have our hands full, that’s for sure. They have dominated this series since it started.”
Now South’s task is to unfold a West team in the midst of a four-game winning streak—and it could easily be five, as the Week 3 loss to Alpharetta was by a tiny margin.
The build up to this game has been quite the crescendo. It might have started Sept. 10 at a South-West softball game, when the visiting-but-vocal South student section seemingly ended a mid-inning trash talk barb by shouting, “Look at your record in football!”
Low blow at another sporting event? Sure. But it was the flavor of the week. South was riding high after blowing out Mountain View and Centennial for a 2-0 start; West was thumped, unsurprisingly, by Mill Creek—a team of behemoths—before losing in a heartbreaker to Alpharetta, the defending region champs.
At the time, the two teams were heading in different directions. That’s not the case this week. In fact, the more you look at South and West, the more eerily similar the two teams are. Both teams score in bunches thanks to sophisticated offenses that balance a nifty passing attack with a steady and reliable run game.
“There are some similarities,” Arnette said. “They’ve got a good throwing game, running game. I like to think we do too.”
West Forsyth head coach Adam Clack mirrored the response.
“I look at South and see a very thorough team and that’s what I like to think we are too,” Clack said. “I would say makeup-wise, we’re similar in that each team has a couple of players that just stand out from week to week, but that all comes in large part from a solid team dynamic.”
South has Davis Shanley at quarterback (74 of 110, 1,060 yards, 13 touchdowns). West has Kiernen Hamilton, one of the state’s leading passers (72 of 147, 1,565 yards, 20 touchdowns). West’s Grant Torgerson and South’s Sam Outlaw are both top tailbacks in the region, and South’s Division I commit in Jalen Camp (22 catches, 366 yards, eight touchdowns) has quite the counterpart in Austin Reid, who has scored on nine of his 19 catches this season with a 27.9 yards-per-catch average. Don’t forget that South’s Cameron Kline and West’s Eli Huggins are both sack machines on the defensive side of the ball.
It took a while for the song to write itself, but the chorus is shaping up to be beautiful. West’s student section, the “Gulo Gang,” has already created a hype video for the contest and called for a blackout. The video includes choice highlights from West’s win against South last year.
Clack hopes the enthusiasm is fever pitch but doesn’t want his team getting sucked into distractions.
“We talked about that (Monday) morning,” Clack said. “That’s cool that they get to do those type of things that build community, school spirit, but we can’t be a part of that.
“We’re just proud to be in a situation to play very meaningful games this far into the season. After this week it will be another big game. All games count the same in the region standings, and if we don’t focus and put the work in, nothing else matters.”
While a win for West will give the Wolverines a head-to-head advantage over South in the Region 6 standings, South could gain more respect around the state with a victory. Even though the War Eagles are undefeated, they’ve received little to no recognition in media power polls.
The way Arnette sees it, recognition is a bunch of baloney.
“We haven’t even thought about it,” Arnette said. “We’re just trying to establish a program and win games each and every Friday night. We’re not good enough to look past any game. It’s exciting to be 6-0, and focused on beating West. If you’re going to get respect you’ve got to earn it.”
Lambert and Pinecrest continue to roll
While South and West will knock heads, Lambert and Pinecrest Academy are set up to continue their highly successful seasons this Friday.
Lambert (5-1, 5-0 Region 6-AAAAAA) hasn’t lost a game against a Class AAAAAA opponent. They’ve won five in a row. The Longhorns have four games remaining. Two of those contests come against beatable opponents in Northview and Chattahoochee, but West (Oct. 23) and South (Nov. 6) wait in the weeds. Depending on other outcomes, those games should be just as huge as the feature matchup for this Friday.
Pinecrest won 49-13 for its first ever victory against St. Francis, on the road, this past weekend. Now the Paladins (5-1, 2-0 Region 6-A, Div. B) have a big home game against Mt. Pisgah, who is also 2-0 in the division and 3-3 overall.