Each of the three Forsyth County teams in the Class 7A football teams has a star, a player who sucks up a bulk of the stats or points and therefore receives a larger share of glory.
For West Forsyth it's been Ben Bresnahan, the Vanderbilt commit tight end whose role has been more than can be categorized by a position; for South Forsyth, it's running back Jared Honey, who has almost half of his team's rushing yards and more than a third of its touchdowns; and for North Forsyth, it's been a bit of quarterback Ben Bales and a bit of tailback Bryson Trigg, who have racked up record-breaking number throwing and running the ball.
Football's a team game, though, and none of those teams are in the playoffs based solely on the contributions of their stars. Here are a few of the players who have had vital roles on their squads but haven't received the appropriate recognition until, well, right now.
North: Charlie Aiken, Jr., WR
The Raiders' four-headed receiver monster of Cedric Touchstone, Nicky DalMolin, Tristan Howard and Aiken has netted the offense plenty of offense this year, and picking the most productive player of that group depends on the measure you choose. Touchstone has the most catches and the most yards, while he and Howard are tied for the most touchdowns, with seven each.
But Aiken might be the biggest playmaker, with his 20 yards per catch figure sitting at the top of the group. North's offense can work just fine as an efficient, relentless unit, picking up small to medium chunks of yardage on long drives, but Aiken can help them do the opposite.
"When we're in a lull offensively or need a big play, he's one of those guys that we certainly try to target," Raiders head coach Robert Craft said.
Of North's five region games, Aiken has a catch for 45 yards or longer in four of them. He had a 72-yarder against Forsyth Central and a 61-yarder against West Forsyth. The latter catch moved the Raiders from 3rd-and-20 at their own 37 to 1st-and-goal at the Wolverines' two-yard line.
Aiken started for North as a sophomore last season, and he looked to former county Offensive Player of the Year Simon Holcomb for inspiration on becoming the team's big-play threat. Aiken said it'll be hard to live up to Holcomb's example, but he's learned how to make similar plays: stay low, stick to the route, run fast.
North has an active screen game as well, and Craft said Aiken figures strongly into that part of the offense, too. But catching the deep throws comes easier to the junior: It's just him and the cornerback, maybe a safety, rather than the crowded quarters around the defense's second level.
"The deeper balls are easier to catch," Aiken said. "Because I can just run under them."
South: Caleb Outlaw, WR/DB/Holder
Caleb Outlaw started holding kicks in middle school, back when he played quarterback. When current War Eagles QB Cal Morris went down with a broken collarbone last year, Outlaw started doing it again, and while Morris is back at full health this year, he's been in no rush to reclaim his previous role.
"(Cal) was pretty all right with me having it," Outlaw said with a laugh. "He kind of likes getting off the field after touchdowns."
It was on a field goal, though, where Outlaw made one of the most important saves of the War Eagles' season. In the second overtime of South's season opener against Roswell in the Corky Kell Classic, Alex Hardy lined up to kick a field goal. The snap to Outlaw was poor, and it skipped across the turf. It was right on line, though, and Outlaw scooped the ball up and set it for Hardy, who booted it through the uprights.
South is forced to kick a field goal. Roswell wins it with a TD here. 17-14. pic.twitter.com/nKVRx4gkws— Ian Frazer (@ianmcfrazer) August 19, 2017
The Hornets failed to score on the next drive, and South won. The War Eagles haven't lost a game in regulation since.
There are a few important pointers that Outlaw notes when it comes to holding kicks. It's best to get the laces facing away from the kicker, and Hardy prefers the ball held straight up and tilted a bit towards Outlaw. But "at all costs," as Outlaw said, the holder has to get the ball down.
Outlaw doesn't remember much of that particular play, and its significance didn't really set in until after he got off the field.
"It really just all seemed like a breeze," Outlaw said.
And he's pretty sure he got the laces out.
West: Abe Camara, Jr., DB/KR
When a kickoff in a high school game breaks the plane of the end zone, it's a touchback, regardless of the returner's intentions. West Forsyth head coach Shawn Cahill wishes that wasn't so.
"That'd be better for us, because we know he'd get it out past the 20," Cahill said.
The Wolverines first-year head coach is talking about Abe Camara, the junior cornerback who has become one of the most dangerous returners in the county. Camara has returned 16 kicks this year for an average of 35.8 yards each, including a return for a touchdown against Forsyth Central.
"We know that with him back there, we're going to get field position," Cahill said.
Camara doesn't have mind-blowing speed or size, but he's strong enough to break tackles and has shown the instincts needed to find holes in the coverage.
A good, consistent kickoff returner's impact can't be confined to the special teams: The yards add up for the offense and the opposing defense, and it's one of the biggest momentum plays in football. Camara has made big plays on defense this year, like a thundering open-field hit on a screen pass to Trigg that knocked the running back out of the game between West and North, but Cahill saw a more important play in that game: A long opening kickoff return from Camara, one that was brought back on a penalty but nonetheless gave a jolt to the Wolverines' offense.
"I think his return game changes the game more than he does on defense," Cahill said of Camara.