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Football: Forsyth Central, Lambert show how quickly momentum can change
Jake Bretz
Forsyth Central senior Jake Bretz returns the opening kick against Chamblee for a touchdown. Photo by Brian Paglia

Two area schools started the season last week on opposite ends of the spectrum.

For Forsyth Central, the season couldn’t have started much better. 

Jake Bretz fielded the opening kickoff of Friday's game against Chamblee at about the 5-yard line, simply looking to set up the Bulldogs' offense with decent field position. 

But Bretz charged ahead, found a lane and spun away from a defender so quickly that the Chamblee player leveled his own teammate. Bretz then ran past the kicker and into the end zone to give Central a 7-0 lead just seconds into the 2019 season. 

"It's something that we work hard on and pride ourselves on being good on special teams, be it kickoff returns or kickoffs or punts or whatever it might be," Central coach Frank Hepler said. "It showed to our team that, hey, if you work something hard, you get good results from it. Today's kids are about instant feedback, and they got some instant feedback."

Meanwhile, just about the same time Bretz was celebrating with his teammates in the end zone, Lambert found itself tasting its own kind of instant feedback. 

As the season began at Wheeler High School, J.D. Thomas grabbed the opening kickoff and went nearly untouched, sprinting 93 yards and into the end zone to stun Lambert and put the Longhorns at an early 7-0 disadvantage.

"You know, a young kicker -- a young, freshman kicker -- who's talented, and when that guy breaks through he doesn't know what to do. He's never been out on Friday nights, and his first play we're asking him to tackle a Division I athlete," Lambert coach Louis Daniel said. "Yeah, you know who's going to win that game."

Things only got worse from there, Daniel said, as the Wheeler Wing-T offense Lambert expected to face was nowhere to be found.

"Yeah, it happened, and it just spiraled," Daniel said. "You know, Coach Love is a good coach, and everything we've known about him and his history, he's a Wing-T guy. So we prepped for two weeks against the Wing-T, and then they get out there running the spread-type stuff. What it does is takes all the prep work you've done and throws it in the trash, and you have to scramble."

Thomas added 110 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, while Deonte Richardson provided two scores of his own and led the Wildcats with 17 carries for 163 yards.

"We were shell-shocked, going, 'What's going on? What just happened?'" Daniel said.

Central's kickoff return for a touchdown against Chamblee also set the tone for the game, albeit a more positive one for the Bulldogs.

Central scored three more times before the end of the first half, taking a 29-7 lead into halftime before an eventual 43-10 win.

Bretz, who plays offense and defense for the Bulldogs, continued to impact the game, adding an athletic 29-yard grab from quarterback Bronson Landreth in the third quarter.

"Jake is one of our most versatile players," Hepler said. "He can play receiver, he can play defensive back, and obviously he's one of our kick returners right now. We expect a lot from him. He's been a three-year starter; he starts on the basketball team, he starts on the football team, he's one of the top track guys. So, he's a very good athlete."

Central will get a week to rest before facing Cass, while Lambert has a chance at redemption today when the Longhorns travel to Chattahoochee.

Daniel said he was happy with the adjustments his team made at halftime, shutting out the Wildcats completely in the second half.

Lambert is replacing several starters on both sides of the ball this year, so making adjustments will be critical for the development of those young players.

 “Those guys have got to relax, settle down and play football, because they wouldn’t be on the field if they weren’t prepared,” Daniel said. “They wouldn’t be playing if we didn’t believe in them. We’ve just got to settle down and play football. Capitalize on the last two quarters of last week and go play.”