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Football: Best players, coaches, breakout stars and more of first half

The FCN sports staff takes stock of the first half of the high school football season.

Offensive Player of the Year

South Forsyth running back Jared Honey finds a big hole to run through against Centennial on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. - photo by Micah Green

Ian Frazer (Sports reporter): Jared Honey, RB, South Forsyth.

South prides itself on the “multiplicity” of its offense, its ability to bounce between different tempos and with different arrangements of players, but it really all comes down to Honey. The senior has been a true horse this year, taking workloads of around 30 carries per game. He’s Forsyth County’s leading rusher, despite abbreviated performances in blowouts against Pinecrest and Centennial, and Honey doesn’t have an obvious hole in his game: He has the physicality for short-yardage situations, but also the speed to break big plays when his offensive line opens a hole.

Brian Paglia (Sports Editor): Jared Honey, RB, South Forsyth.

There are two challengers to Honey’s player-of-the-year candidacy right now, as I see it. The first is North Forsyth quarterback Ben Bales, who is having a fantastic season thus far with 1,451 passing yards and 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. But South played a much more challenging non-region schedule. The second is Lambert senior Marcus Chatelain, who has transitioned from defensive back to running back and has 413 yards and four touchdowns on 65 carries. But Honey has twice as many touchdowns (nine) and over 100 more yards (526). 

Defensive Player of the Year

South Forsyth’s Ryan LaFlamme, center, reacts after one of his 3.5 sacks Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 against Roswell in the Corky Kell Classic at Georgia State Stadium. - photo by Micah Green

Frazer: Ryan LaFlamme, DL, South Forsyth

The War Eagles 5-0 record hasn’t come against a cupcake schedule. They’ve faced good teams with plenty of good talent, and they’ve held strong against all of it. South has allowed the fewest points per game of any team in the region, and that strength has emanated from their defensive line, particularly LaFlamme. He has 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in basically three-and-a-half games this year. LaFlamme helped South bottle up Centennial’s Emeka Nwanze, a three-star recruit, for just 60 rushing yards on 21 carries, and when he faced Roswell and Cordel Littlejohn, a dual-threat quarterback committed to Illinois, LaFlamme came away with four sacks. 

Paglia: Ryan LaFlamme, DL, South Forsyth

What a difference health makes. LaFlamme looked primed to contend for defensive player of the year last season before a foot injury cost him a month of games. His return to full health has been a boon to South Forsyth’s defense that is allowing a county-best 16.2 points a game. His four-sack performance against Roswell in the Corky Kell Classic stands out, of course, but he already has more tackles for loss (11) than last season. LaFlamme is going to get stiff competition from the likes of Lambert’s Will Kohlins and North Forsyth’s Honus Wagner, but he’s a step ahead for now.

Coach of the Year

West Forsyth’s Jake Weldy (33) lifts Wolverines head coach Shawn Cahill after Friday’s win against Woodstock. (Photo by Michael Chung)

Frazer: Jeff Arnette, South Forsyth

Here’s a secret: We originally wanted to do this year’s edition of Camp Chronicles on South Forsyth, with the series culminating with the Corky Kell Classic. Unfortunately for us, Arnette declined, concerned filming would be a potential distraction for the War Eagles in their preparation for the high-profile opener. Well, their overtime win against then-No. 2 Roswell made Arnette’s decision look like a sage one, and he’s been pushing all the right buttons for the War Eagles since then. Will this South team replicate the deep playoff run of 2015? We don’t know right now, but they’ve looked stronger every week this season.

Paglia: Shawn Cahill, West Forsyth

I’ll give the slight nod to Cahill for stepping into a program that, albeit a successful one, was also experiencing its most drastic transition in leadership and personnel since the school opened in 2007. Former head coach Adam Clack left for Milton and took virtually all of West’s offensive coaching staff with him, leaving Cahill to recreate that side of the ball with just four starters back. The defense, meanwhile, returned just two starters. And yet the Wolverines are 4-1, just like they were at the end of the non-region schedule last season. The son of a long-time successful high school football coach in North Dakota, Cahill is off to a strong start in his own head coaching career.

Breakout Performers of the Year

North Forsyth running back Bryson Trigg stretches for more yards Friday in the Raiders’ scrimmage against Gainesville at home. - photo by Brian Paglia

Bryson Trigg, North Forsyth, QB (Jr.)

Senior quarterback Ben Bales and his prolific passing may be drawing the most of the attention to North at this point, Trigg is making it so the Raiders’ ground game doesn’t go unnoticed. He had pedestrian outings in his first two games, but Trigg then exploded for a school-record 242 yards and four touchdowns against Pickens County and rushed for 111 yards on 20 carries against Woodstock the next week.

Devran Orsan, Forsyth Central, RB (Jr.)

If there’s been a bright spot for the Bulldogs this year, it’s the emergence of Orsan. The junior was lightly used in Central’s first two games, getting just six carries in the opener against Dawson County and 13 against River Ridge, but he has become perhaps the team’s greatest weapon since. He had 103 yards and two touchdowns against Meadowcreek, 193 yards and three touchdowns against Duluth and scored twice against Kennesaw Mountain.

Will Kohlins, Lambert, DT (Sr.)

It looked like Lambert was in a good spot on defense this year, given the return of Kenneth Dicks III, Marcus Chatelain and Alex Snyder. Meanwhile, Kohlins, who was lightly used as a running back in the first two games of the year, has slid in and outstripped all those players in productiveness. He has more than doubled his tackle figure from last year, with 39, and 10.5 of those takedowns have come for a loss. Kohlins is no physical beast on the line, at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, but his placement and work rate can’t be ignored.

West Forsyth linebacker Jack Weldy reacts after a big play against Dacula on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. /// Photo by Michael Chung

Marcus Chatelain, Lambert, RB, Sr.

Chatelain technically doesn’t belong here. He had his breakout two years ago as a defensive back. But he’s having a different sort of breakout this season – as a running back. Chatelain has 413 yards and four touchdowns on 65 carries, good for 6.4 yards per carry. He carried Lambert in its 28-0 win against Cherokee with 179 yards and a touchdown, and he had 102 yards and three scores in last week’s win at Wheeler. Oh, and he still has 14 tackles on defense, too.

Cedric Touchstone, North Forsyth, WR, Sr.

The Raiders knew replacing wide receiver Simon Holcomb, the FCN’s 2016 Offensive Player of the Year, would take a collective effort from returners and newcomers to that position group. Indeed, that has been the case as North already has three players with over 300 receiving yards. Last year, it had one – Holcomb. Touchstone caught one pass all of last season. This season, he leads the county in receiving yards (419) on 27 catches with four touchdowns.

Jake Weldy, West Forsyth, LB, Jr.

The Wolverines’ biggest question mark going into the season had to be their defense with the unit returning just two starters in defensive lineman David Carrillo and defensive back Cade Vela. But what it lacked in varsity experience it made up for in continuity as defensive coordinator David Rooney remained staff after head coach Adam Clack left to take the same job at Milton. So perhaps Rooney knew Weldy was poised to emerge as a significant contributor and lead West in tackles with 39 including two for losses. 

Three questions for second half

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Forsyth Central's football team runs makes their entrance before facing Dawson County on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. - photo by Brian Paglia

1. What can this Lambert team do?

Lambert has had an unremarkable non-region schedule, finishing at 2-3. The Longhorns also did that in 2016, but they then proceeded to win four of their next five games and come away with a region title. Given 2017’s similarity to last year up to this point, one has to wonder if Lambert is capable of the same type of run. The current outlook isn’t particularly rosy: The Longhorns’ passing game looks significantly less dangerous so far, with the graduation of quarterback Richie Kenney and the transfer of wide receiver Tyler Gillis, and the offense has been held in single digits twice. But given the precedent, Lambert could still be an intriguing group to watch.

2. What does North’s defense have in it?

Through five games, we know this much about the Raiders: They can score quite a bit. Ben Bales is looking comfortable and improved in his second year in head coach Robert Craft’s system, his group of receivers looks more well-rounded, and running back Bryson Trigg has shown the signs of a breakout. North didn’t play a particularly strong non-region schedule, though, with Woodstock being the only Class 7A team it faced, and the 49-17 thrashing the Raiders took in that game doesn’t bode well for their chances against offenses like South, West and Milton. If North wants a comfortable path to the playoffs, it will have to beat at least one of those teams.

3. Will Central win a game?

Central’s season last year, their first under former West head coach Frank Hepler, came to a disheartening end, with the Bulldogs dropping their last six games and getting shut out in the final three. But at least they could look back fondly on the three straight wins to open the year. In 2017, there has been no such solace so far: Central couldn’t get on the board for the first two games, and while losses to Meadowcreek, Duluth and Kennesaw Mountain have been tight ones, with the last two coming in overtime, they’re still losses. Central is the only county public school team without a win, and everybody else has at least two. That makes the possibility of the Bulldogs finishing winless for the first time since the 1970s a fairly realistic one.

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1. Can South run the table?

No Forsyth County high school football team has ever finished a regular season undefeated. Eight have come close with one loss – Central in 1985, 1996, and 1996; North in 2001; West in 2011 and 2012; Pinecrest in 2015; and South in 2015. It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty that the War Eagles are headed for a perfect regular season; the rivalries in region play can produce surprises on any given week. But South’s work up to this point is impressive enough to consider the possibility. Plus, teams from all over the state go into the state playoffs undefeated every season. Wouldn’t it be cool for Forsyth County to do it too?

2. Who stays winless longer?

No GHSA-member football program in Forsyth County has finished winless since Forsyth Central in 1973 – then known as Forsyth County High School –  under head coach William “Bill” Boyd. But here we are at midseason with three schools still searching for their first win: Central (0-4), Horizon Christian (0-5) and Pinecrest Academy (0-4). Looking ahead, Horizon and Pinecrest seem to have the best chance to get in the win column. Horizon finishes the season against Johnson Ferry (1-4) and King’s Academy (1-4). Pinecrest’s best chances are against King’s Ridge (1-3) and St. Francis (1-3). Central’s schedule isn’t as forgiving; the Bulldogs’ Region 5-7A opponents are a combined 17-7.

3. How big a threat is Milton?

Adam Clack may have left West Forsyth football, but the former Wolverines head coach will still have an impact on the Region 5-7A race. Now at Milton, his Eagles team is off to a strong start at 3-1 before tonight’s game against Roswell. Milton might have the most recruited team in the region, with the likes of juniors Joseph Charleston, Allen Walker and Jordan Yates. They have quality wins against Alpharetta and Etowah and a close loss to North Gwinnett. Then they begin region play against, of course, West Forsyth, his former team. Emotions should run high in that one, but implications for state playoff seeding will be even higher.