For South Forsyth Middle football coach Kevin Waddell, one of the hardest parts of the Eagles’ season comes now.
South recently completed a 9-0 season with a 14-7 county championship win over Otwell on Tuesday. The Eagles took a 14-0 lead in the first half before giving up a touchdown on a trick play to the Bulldogs, and a defensive battle ensued in the second half to hold the score steady.
The school is located right down the road from Lambert, but with the recent redistricting, the Eagles’ eighth graders will be roughly split between going to Lambert and South Forsyth High – Waddell said most of the skill players would go to the Longhorns, while most of the linemen would go to South.
“It’s going to be hard to see them split up,” Waddell said. “They’ve worked hard, they’ve really bonded, (and) they’ve become a tight-knit group of friends and a little family … I know they’re upset about the thought of having to play each other.”
Waddell had an idea that this current group could win the title. They went undefeated in seventh-grade scrimmages last year, and last year’s South seventh-grade basketball team, which Waddell coaches, went undefeated as well.
The Eagles didn’t have any weak areas to speak of: Quarterback A.J. McIlwain and running back Brandon Jones gave them two strong talents on offense; the defense clamped down when necessary, holding Otwell to -3 yards in total in the second half of the championship game; and even the kicking game was strong, regularly generating touchbacks.
“We definitely knew that we had an extremely talented team,” Waddell said.
The Eagles’ dominance showed early, as the team scored 116 points before allowing a touchdown, but their path to the championship wasn’t without close calls, as evidenced by single-score margin of the championship game and the 21-14 win over Vickery Creek in the semifinals, in which South didn’t lead until it scored first in overtime.
Waddell has been in contact with Lambert head coach Louis Daniel and South head coach Jeff Arnette about the Eagles’ season, and both have taken notice of the middle school team’s success.
“I know they’re really excited about the talent with this team headed their way,” Waddell said.