It’s not impossible.
North Forsyth can still win a region championship. So can West Forsyth – technically.
In theory, three different teams have a chance at nabbing a Region 5-7A title Friday night after the dust settles.
Milton has the simplest road: Win, and they’re champs.
But if North beats Milton on Friday, both teams will have one region loss. Then, if West Forsyth also beats South Forsyth, three teams – North, West and Milton – will have one loss.
The three-team tiebreaker is point differential in region contests, an advantage Milton holds soundly.
The Eagles (6-3, 4-0 Region 5-7A) have scored 144 points in four region games and given up just 21, which puts their point differential at +123.
The next closest is North’s +37 mark, followed by South (+6) and West (+5).
So, for North (6-3, 3-1 Region 5-7A) to secure that elusive region championship, the one the Raiders have been chasing since 2001, they’ll have to beat Milton by 86 points.
Lose, and they can fall all the way to third.
“From our understanding, we can finish one, two or three, depending on what happens Friday,” North Forsyth coach Robert Craft said.
If North’s first-place scenario seems impossible, West’s is all but undoable.
The Wolverines (4-4, 3-1 Region 5-7A) would have to beat South Forsyth while making up a 118-point differential.
“I don’t know if we can finish first,” West Forsyth coach Shawn Cahill said. “I think the point differential comes in, and I don’t think there’s any way that could happen for us. I do believe second, third and fourth is accurate.”
But they can still finish second and host a playoff game, as can North and South.
Right now, Cahill is more focused on X’s and O’s.
The Wolverines picked up a monumental win last week with a 22-21 win against North, but now they must tame a South offense that has scored at least 30 points six times this season.
“(South senior Colby Cruz) is as quick and as shifty of a kid I’ve seen. (South junior Tre Green) has got great balance,” Cahill said. “If we don’t wrap up and tackle, we’re going to be in a whole world of hurt with those guys. Then they’ve got those other guys on the outside, those receivers, that can make plays and hurt you, too. If we don’t tackle, we’re going to be in for a long night with those guys.”
Luckily, that’s one thing West did extraordinarily well in its come-from-behind win against North.
The Wolverines registered 15 tackles for loss, with senior Aiden Phillips (4) and junior Hudson Posey (3) leading the way.
“We had some kids Friday night that felt like their backs were up against the wall,” Cahill said, “so their motor might have been going a little bit more than in the past.”
Meanwhile, South was locked in a slugfest with Forsyth Central, a 21-14 win that featured just 443 yards of total offense between the two teams.
The War Eagles (5-4, 2-2 Region 5-7A) can host a playoff game in they beat West and Milton tops North.
If that scenario plays out, North, South and West would each be 3-2 in region play, with the tiebreaker again coming down to point differential. South would need to make up the 31 points that separate them and North.
Despite a heartbreaking one-point loss – North’s first loss since September – Craft is optimistic about how the Raiders stack up against Milton.
“We feel like we match up pretty well with them,” Craft said. “They have a couple good backs, plus a quarterback, so you really want to start with the run game first and foremost. Statistically, we’ve played really well against the run, and I think that’s something we do really well.”
That’s true. The Raiders have been stingy against the run, giving up just 219 rushing yards in their past three games combined.
But Milton has a tough defense of its own, pitching a shutout last week against Lambert and giving up just seven points in each of its first three region games.
“I think they’ve got one of the top defenses in the state,” Craft said. “Physically, they’re great on the defensive line. When you’re good there, on the defensive line, you’re great defensively. Not to take away from their other players, but that jumps out to you right away; you affect the run game, you affect the pass with the pass rush.”
If North does lose to Milton, the Raiders would need South to beat West – but not by too much.
After all, in a region shared almost entirely by one county, every point will matter Friday night.