Five of Forsyth County’s six varsity football programs open the region schedule tonight, with Forsyth Central the lone local program making a final appearance in non-region competition.
Lambert (3-0) and South Forsyth (3-0) meet for the third time in history at 7:30 p.m. tonight at The Horn, where one team will start the Region 6-AAAAAA schedule 1-0 and the other will see its perfect record undone.
North Forsyth also opens the Region 6 schedule at home against Chattahoochee, a program just two years removed from a state championship. No. 5-ranked West Forsyth is the only local program that has to travel outside the county this week, as the Wolverines face a tough Region 6 road test against an Alpharetta squad that came into the season ranked in the top 10 in Class 6A.
Six days after breaking school rushing records in a win over Mount Vernon, Pinecrest Academy will welcome Lakeview to Forsyth County in the Region 8-A opener, while Sprayberry comes to Central tonight in the Bulldogs’ final game before their 7A-AAAAA subregion opener on Oct. 5 at North Springs.
No. 5-ranked West Forsyth (3-0) at Alpharetta (1-2) — 7:30 p.m.
Despite bringing back the core of a team that reached the Class 5A quarterfinals last season, West Forsyth wasn’t ranked among the top 10 teams in Class 6A entering the season.
Three wins over quality opponents have quickly changed that.
The Wolverines moved up three spots in the Class 6A rankings this week to No. 5 — the highest they’ve been since fielding their first varsity team in 2008 — after crushing Starr’s Mill 63-14 on Friday at The Den.
But if the Wolverines (3-0) want to keep their new-found notoriety, they’ll need a victory against the only opponent they couldn’t beat during the 2011 regular season.
West opens the Region 6-AAAAAA schedule tonight in Alpharetta, where they lost 27-14 on Sept. 30, 2011 in a game that ultimately decided that Region 6-AAAAA championship.
The Raiders are off to a 1-2 start after losing 43-24 against No. 9-ranked Lovejoy last week, but West head coach Frank Hepler believes their record is misleading.
"I don’t see a weak spot on their team," Hepler said.
"I know their record is 1-2 right now but they’ve played well and they’ve played great competition. They are unbelievable if you ask me."
If the Wolverines hope to get the best of the Raiders this time around, they’ll need to slow down Alpharetta quarterback Joshua Dobbs, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior committed to Arizona State.
Dobbs completed 29 of 38 passes for 371 yards and four touchdowns in the Raiders’ win over West last season. His favorite target, Carlos Burse, a 6-foot-2, 193-pound receiver committed to Vanderbilt, hauled in eight passes for 66 yards.
West has won nine of the 10 games its played since that meeting, including a season-opening 32-30 win over Gainesville this year. The Wolverines forced Gainesville quarterback DeShaun Watson, a mobile, strong-armed signal caller like Dobbs, into four interceptions in that game.
"They’re the Cam Newtons [of the world]," Hepler said of Dobbs and Watson, who is committed to Clemson. "They’re very similar in a lot of aspects."
While West’s defense will need to have a much better performance than last season, the offense will need to make similar strides.
While Dobbs ran Alpharetta’s spread offense almost perfectly against West last season, his team’s defense forced West quarterback A.J. Erdely into his worst game of the season. Five dropped passes by Wolverines’ receivers contributed to Erdely finishing the night 5-of-20 for 32 yards and two interceptions.
Alpharetta held the Wolverines scoreless for the final 21:52 of the game.
Erdely has shown pinpoint accuracy this season, completing 35 of 45 passes for 485 yards through three games.
"A.J. is a very good quarterback in his own right," Hepler said. "He’s come a long way. It’s not like he woke up one morning and became a good quarterback — he’s put in a lot of time and a lot of effort."
The one area West succeeded against Alpharetta last season was the ground, where running back Blake Roberts and wingback Jake Wieczorek ran for more than 100 yards apiece.
Wieczorek has missed time after being injured in the first half of the Wolverines’ win against Flowery Branch on Sept. 7, but Hepler said he and the rest of the starters are healthy and ready to go for tonight’s game.
"We’ve got to come in and play with a lot of energy," Hepler said.
Pinecrest Academy (1-1) vs. Lakeview Academy (2-0) — 7:30 p.m.
Pinecrest comes into the game with confidence after a 56-27 thrashing of Mount Vernon.
The Paladins hope they get the same type of production from quarterback Jimmy Strom and running back John Paul Metz as they did during the last game, where Strom racked up a Pinecrest record 201 rushing yards and five touchdowns and running back Metz added 144 yards.
Following the big win, Pinecrest wasn’t as focused as head coach Todd Winter would have liked, and it showed during Monday’s practice.
"They must have been reading about themselves too much in the paper." Winter joked. "I knew it would happen after the win. I tell them to use the weekend to enjoy the game, but come to practice ready to work."
The Paladins must prepare to stop an offense they are familiar with – the triple option – in order to win the Region 8-A opener.
"They’re pretty good offensively," Winter said. "Every defense they’ve faced never had a guy [watching] the quarterback. We’re going to change that. The triple option is assignment oriented and our job is to get the football to the pitch phase."
North Forsyth (3-0) vs. Chattahoochee (2-1) — 7:30 p.m.
After a 28-12 victory over Cherokee, in which the Raiders’ defense sacked the quarterback seven times and allowed just 47 rushing yards, North will try to remain unbeaten in its first Region 6-AAAAAA game at Raider field tonight against Chattahoochee.
The North defense faces its toughest task all season in stopping a Cougars team that has defeated its last two opponents with a combined score of 79-0. The two teams haven’t played one another since the 2009 season, where the Raiders topped the Cougars 34-31.
Raiders quarterback Harris Roberts, who paced the team against Cherokee going 8-for-11 with three touchdowns and 119 passing yards, will need similar results against a stingy Chattahoochee defense.
Forsyth Central (0-3) vs. Sprayberry (0-3) — 7:30 p.m.
After 425 yards of offense last week, Forsyth Central head coach Chris Bennett thinks the players have a firm grasp of the system. And with one more game before Region 7-AAAAA play, there’s no better time.
Central will look to running back Shay Hollis, who rushed for 120 yards on 12 carries last week, to carry much of the load for the Bulldogs.
"We still have a very young team, but we saw a lot of improvements last week," Bennett said. "We went from believing in what we were doing to doing it."
Although Sprayberry is winless, Bennett said the Yellow Jackets, who use a spread offense, are a much better team than their record indicates. Sprayberry’s first two games were decided by a combined seven points.
"They do a good job of tackling in space and are extremely athletic," Bennett said.
"They protect the football on offense and have a couple of skill guys with their quarterback and running back.
"They use a 3-3 stack [on defense] and have a really good D-lineman and linebacker. They fly around to the ball."