It’s halftime in Forsyth County. Here’s a look at what players, coaches and games stood out to the FCN sports staff during the first half.
Defensive Player of the Year (so far):
David Roberts, sports editor: Jumel Lewis, North Forsyth
How about some love for the secondary?
Only one team has scored more than 14 points against North Forsyth this season.
One reason why is defensive back Jumel Lewis, who leads the county with five pass break-ups and is tied for the area lead with three interceptions.
Lewis is also a sure tackler, as 13 of his 14 tackles have been solo stops. Lewis also has a tackle for loss and a sack.
Lewis, just a sophomore, had two interceptions in a 21-7 win against Gainesville, and his other pick came against Kennesaw Mountain in a 35-3 win.
Jon Fleming led North Forsyth in interceptions last year with three. This year, it’s taken Lewis just five games to reach that mark.
If teams keep throwing his way, he’ll be sure to eclipse it.
David Almeda, sports reporter: Jax Weaver, South Forsyth
We talk about South’s talented core of receivers a lot, but a good bit of South’s early season success has come because of the other side of the ball.
Weaver has been a cornerstone of the War Eagle defense. Heading into last week’s game against Hillgrove, the senior South linebacker had 26 total tackles (three for loss), a county-leading two forced fumbles and nine quarterback hurries.
Against Etowah, he recovered one of his forced fumbles to help South pull off the comeback win.
Offensive Player of the Year (so far):
David Roberts, sports editor: Aaron McLaughlin, Denmark
Aaron McLaughlin has passed for nearly 1,000 yards in four games this season, a stat made more impressive by the fact that all but one of Denmark’s games this year have been all but over by halftime.
In the one exception, a 38-24 win at Dawson County, McLaughlin was 19-of-29 passing for 449 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions.
Denmark simply hasn’t needed McLaughlin to do much in any of its other games. McLaughlin has two games where he’s completed just six passes: a 63-0 win against North Springs and a 58-0 win against Chestatee.
But McLaughlin, who is 53-of-89 passing for 995 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, has looked unstoppable when needed.
He’s averaging 18.8 yards per completion this season, aided by last week’s performance where he completed six passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
McLaughlin should only get better as the season progresses and Denmark finds itself actually needing to score points.
David Almeda, sports reporter: Ze’Vian Capers, Denmark
Yeah, Denmark has a pretty good quarterback, but what’s a passer without some nice weapons to throw to? Ze’Vian Capers, who is committed to Auburn just like McLaughlin, is probably the most highly sought-after college football recruits to ever come from Forsyth County.
He’s got great hands to make the tough catches and the size and frame to challenge for those 50-50 balls at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds.
His first few games didn’t jump out on the stat sheet because he didn’t play the entirety of those games, but in the last few contests, he’s started to heat up. He had a monster game against Dawson County on Sept. 20, with 282 yards and two touchdowns.
Coach of the Year (so far):
David Roberts, sports editor: Jeff Arnette, South Forsyth
Imagine a South Forsyth team with Ze’Vian Capers, Jordan Brunson and C.J. Ford.
Pretty scary, right?
It can’t be easy losing a Power Five wide receiver like Capers one season, then losing two more Division I talents like Brunson and Ford a year later.
Yet, South is 3-2 this year, with its only losses coming against two of the top teams in the state.
Tre Green has stepped in at running back, quarterback Joe Slott is engineering the offense, and South has a lethal trio of wide receivers in Cameron Schurr, Colby Cruz and Devin McGlockton.
Its linebackers are as good as any, with Jax Weaver, Keegan Toner and Alec Stephens leading the way on defense.
That success starts all the way up top with head coach Jeff Arnette.
David Almeda, sports reporter: Robert Craft, North Forsyth
Heading into this season, North Forsyth had plenty of questions to answer.
The Raiders had just one returning starter on offense in receiver Nicky Dalmolin, and on defense, there was some returning varsity experience but still some new faces to go around.
With the exception of last week’s one-point loss to Woodstock, North has mostly done what Craft stressed over and over before their schedule started despite all that uncertainty: Finding the extra plays to win the games they couldn’t last season.
North has utilized two-way players like Patrick Corrigan and Jared Lucero well, and in the trenches, the Raiders have looked dominant at times on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Brady Meitz has also been effective in his first year as a starter, with 738 passing yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions so far.
Game of the Year (so far):
David Roberts, sports editor: Blessed Trinity at South Forsyth
It might not have ended the way South Forsyth wanted it to end, but the War Eagles nearly erased a 27-point fourth-quarter deficit against Blessed Trinity in a 34-31 thriller.
Sophomore quarterback Kyle Durham came off the bench to help South score 24 unanswered points, throwing two touchdowns and running in another score. Durham also converted a pair of two-point plays.
Wide receiver Devin McGlockton made an improbable, 37-yard circus catch from Durham, then caught a 23-yard touchdown pass to make it 34-31 with 5.4 seconds left in the game.
South recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the referees flagged the War Eagles, which gave Blessed Trinity the ball and allowed the Titans to run out the clock.
David Almeda, sports reporter: South Forsyth at Etowah
While the War Eagles couldn’t quite pull off the miracle comeback against Blessed Trinity, their penchant for late-game heroics shined through once again a week later against Etowah. That time, South came through, overcoming a 28-19 halftime deficit to ultimately take a 32-31 road win. The offenses went back and forth all night, with receiver Cameron Schurr leading South with 183 yards and three touchdown catches, including a juggling catch for a 61-yard go-ahead score. Despite the War Eagles’ defense struggling for most of the game, they held Etowah to just a field goal in the second half and came away with late turnovers that made the difference.
David Roberts, sports editor:
How good is Forsyth Central?
Forsyth Central has been dominant in its three wins this season. The Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 148-31, including 98-6 in their past two games.
But Central didn’t play the toughest non-region schedule.
In fact, none of the teams Central beat have won a game (Chamblee 0-4, Lakeside-DeKalb 0-5, Clarkston 0-6).
That’s not to take anything away from Central; quarterback Bronson Landreth is averaging 7.4 yards per carry, and Alex Szakacs and Branden Redecker have combined for 36 tackles and nine tackles for loss in four games.
Central was in a similar position last year, save for a 24-12 win against Cass, coming into Region 5-7A play with just one loss.
Are the Bulldogs truly contenders this season?
Is Denmark the best team in Class 4A?
Denmark certainly looks the part.
We’ll know more next week after the Danes travel to Blessed Trinity, which is currently ranked No. 4 in Class 4A. A date with No. 2 Marist looms the following week.
If the Danes go 1-1 in that two-week stretch, it’ll be fair to call Denmark one of the top teams in Class 4A.
If they go 2-0, however, the Danes have a case for being No. 1, a distinction currently held by 5-0 Cartersville.
What’s next for West Forsyth?
West Forsyth ventured across the state line earlier this season to challenge one of Alabama’s top teams in Hewitt-Trussville, then hosted McCallie, the No. 1 team in Tennessee’s Division II-3A.
Both games ended with a loss, but West’s McCallie loss was more costly.
Quarterback Blake Whitfield was sacked in the first half and exited the game with a broken collarbone.
Now, it’s Drew Southern’s turn yet again to lead the offense. West’s offense looked sluggish after Whitfield’s departure, but that’s likely because Southern doubles as the team’s starting safety.
After two weeks of preparation with Southern under center, how will the offense look when the Wolverines open Region 5-7A play against defending state champions Milton?
David Almeda, sports reporter:
Can North continue its domination in the trenches?
The Raiders have manhandled opponents on the offensive and defensive lines in their first few games, but with the competition getting stiffer, it remains to be seen if they can continue that success and the kind of running game that has resulted from that. They’ll face a Forsyth Central defense that looks good so far before facing Lambert and South Forsyth in their next two contests.
What’s in the immediate future for Lambert?
It’s pretty safe to say that 2019 has not been a great year for Lambert so far. The Longhorns have yet to win a game and have scored over 20 points just once, in their 46-28 loss to Chattahoochee on Aug. 30. Since then, the offense has struggled mightily. Lambert hasn’t put up more than seven points in either of its two full games since then. With the region looking as talented as ever, it may be very tough for the Longhorns going forward. They’ll play very solid South and North squads to start their slate beginning next week.
What should we make of West?
Just like last year, the Wolverines played the toughest non-region schedule of anyone in the county, finishing that slate at 1-3. But unlike last season, two of West’s three losses weren’t particularly close. It remains to be seen if those discrepancies were results of the Wolverines’ opponents just being that good, or if this just isn’t West’s year. They’ll certainly find out what kind of team they are in region play beginning with a home tilt against Milton next week. They will have to go with Drew Southern at quarterback, though, with Blake Whitfield injuring his shoulder against McCallie (Tenn.).