David Roberts, Sports Editor
Question: Is it too early to talk about football?
Answer: It’s never too early to talk about football.
That’s why we’ve tracked down football schedules for Forsyth County’s seven GHSA football teams – so you, our readers, will hopefully have something to look forward to in a time of vast uncertainty.
There were some changes in the winter. Most notably, three of our area schools witnessed head coaching changes. Tommy Watson comes to Lambert from Lowndes, while West Forsyth landed Dave Svehla from Etowah and Denmark reached across state lines to snag Mike Palmieri, one of North Carolina’s most successful active coaches.
Now, with that out of the way, check out the five games the
Forsyth County News sports staff can’t wait to cover in the fall.
1. South Forsyth at Denmark
The south side of the county’s newest rivalry.
It’s too bad these two teams play at Denmark this time around. Could you imagine those Denmark players walking into War Eagle Stadium, taking the field to a cascade of boos from South Forsyth’s student section?
They’ll still be there, though, as will much of the county, I’d imagine. (North Forsyth has a bye on Oct. 23.)
I suspect we’ll know a lot about these two teams at this point in the season. Could Denmark find life in Region 6-7A easier than its previous home of Region 7-4A? Will quarterback Kyle Durham be given the keys to the War Eagles’ offense?
Speaking of War Eagle, I heard something about Auburn’s bye week being that weekend, too.
2. Mays at West Forsyth
The Corky Kell Classic comes to Forsyth County as West Forsyth continues its tradition of scheduling a brutal non-region slate.
After this one, the Wolverines go to Cartersville (12-1), Walton (6-6) and Mill Creek (10-3).
It remains to be seen what the makeup of West Forsyth will look like under first-year coach Dave Svehla. Expect that defense to be stout yet again. Sure, the Wolverines will miss Forsyth County News Defensive Player of the Year Eli Orr – linebackers Jack Hughes, Luke Nordin and Aiden Phillips also come to mind.
But Dalton Tjong is coming off an incredible season in West Forsyth’s defensive secondary, as is Bryce Allen, and Svehla will have plenty of budding talent in his front seven.
Against a Mays team that lost virtually everything off last year’s 10-win team, West Forsyth could be in position for an early statement win.
3. Harrison at North Forsyth
Harrison steamrolled everyone last year on its way to a Class 6A state championship.
But, like Mays, Harrison is losing a lot to graduation, most notably running back David Roberts, who I’ve just placed on the all-name team.
Welcome to the club.
He rushed for more than 1,500 yards and scored 21 touchdowns, while quarterback Gavin Hall parlayed a strong senior season into an offer from Toledo, where he’ll spend the next four years.
But Harrison, which hasn’t had a losing season since 2012, should reload.
This is the Raiders’ chance to prove they can hang with the big boys. They proved that last year with their improbable win against Brookwood in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs.
Can North Forsyth take the next step in 2020, and can they do it without all-everything Nicky Dalmolin?
4. Pinecrest at King’s Ridge
Call it the return.
Former Denmark coach Terry Crowder will lead the Tigers against a Forsyth County team for the first time since taking the job at King’s Ridge.
He’ll have his work cut out for him, though.
This game was an absolute slaughter last season, as Pinecrest scored seven times on its first 12 plays in a 55-0 blowout.
With this being the final game of the regular season for both teams, Pinecrest and King’s Ridge will be jockeying for a playoff spot or improved playoff seeding.
5. Lambert at Centennial
Lambert gets its first win of the Tommy Watson era in his first game coaching the Longhorns.
Lambert wasn’t great last year, but Centennial was worse.
The Knights went 0-10 in 2019, featuring blowout losses to Northside (3-7) and Cambridge (3-6), among others.
Expect wide receiver Kojo Antwi to be a much bigger part of Lambert’s offense in 2020. The rising junior made a splash in recruiting during the offseason, picking up offers from Georgia Tech and South Carolina.
And with a new coach and a changing culture, the Longhorns will be eager to put last year’s nightmare behind them.
David Almeda, Sports Writer
With everything going on in the world right now, it’s hard to focus on things like high school sports, which look to be on hiatus for the foreseeable future. But as the old adage goes, this too shall pass, and it doesn’t hurt to look forward to a time where everything returns to relative normalcy.
So how about we look at the upcoming football season? With a new region that encompasses all of Forsyth County’s public schools, there will certainly be a good amount of intriguing matchups. Here are five that caught my eye.
1. South Forsyth at Denmark
This is the one that really jumps out to me. Denmark and South haven’t faced each other in football yet, but these teams already don’t like each other, and it’s clear that this is a budding geographical rivalry in the southern half of the county.
The quarterback matchup should be an interesting one. Denmark’s Aaron McLaughlin is a Division I college recruit who threw for 2,018 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year. South’s Kyle Durham was hurt for much of the season in 2019, but he saw his fair share of time and showed some promise before he got hurt, passing for 815 yards, six touchdowns and six picks over five games.
It’ll also be interesting to see how both these teams will adjust to losing some key players at wideout — Colby Cruz for South and Auburn signee Ze’Vian Capers for Denmark.
2. Mays at West Forsyth (Corky Kell Classic)
This is the only non-region game on my list, but I’m excited for this one, mostly for the historical aspect. It’ll mark the first time a Corky Kell Classic game will be held in Forsyth County, and it’ll be really cool to be a part of the bright lights of the biggest football event in the state, outside the playoffs, of course.
As this is the Wolverines’ season opener, it’ll also be the first time that we get a look at this new West Forsyth team in the regular season, led by head coach Dave Svehla. Despite losing some leaders on the defensive side of the ball, lineman Dylan Fairchild is a top-tier Division I talent who should be fun to watch.
The on-field matchup with Mays looks like it could be a good one, too. The Raiders went 10-2 last year, falling to Coffee in the first round of the playoffs.
3. Forsyth Central at Denmark
In a perfect world, this game would have happened last year, but thanks to some untimely lightning, it didn’t. It would have been quite the atmosphere, with players and fans from both sides packing the stands, more than ready to see the rematch of Danes’ 7-3 win over the Bulldogs in 2018.
That rematch has been pushed back to this year, but I think this game should still be a good one. With both teams set to share a region for the first time, there’s much more at stake, and unlike what I think I would have seen last year, I think the matchup should be a bit more even.
Central head coach Frank Hepler has done a tremendous job in turning around Central’s program. We’re not sure what new Denmark coach Mike Palmieri has up his sleeve yet, but if his time at North Carolina powerhouse Mallard Creek is to be taken into consideration, we should be excited.
4. North Forsyth at Gainesville
This is another new region matchup for the county, and for North Forsyth, it’s an intriguing one. The Raiders already have some history against the Red Elephants, and for them it’s quite pleasant, with a perfect 6-0 record against them since their first matchup back in 1998.
Last season, North hosted Gainesville and got past them in a 21-7 win that was more dominating that the final score indicated. This year North is on the road, though, and if they are to keep the perfect streak alive, they may have to find another way to do it.
North used a bruising offensive line and a power run game led by Jared Lucero to take the win last year. He’ll be back, but with outside threat Nicky Dalmolin set to play at Duke this fall, the Raiders may need some receivers to step up. One significant holdover will be quarterback Brady Meitz, who had a solid first year as a starter with 2,089 yards passing with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
5. West Forsyth at Lambert
Yeah, this is the last game of the regular season for both of these teams, and Lambert wasn’t exactly hot last year (0-10). But as Central showed in 2018, a lot can change in a year, and you never know what a season can bring. Besides, I think this actually has a chance to be a decent matchup.
Both of these teams have new head coaches, Svehla for West and Tommy Watson for Lambert. By the time this game rolls around, we’ll probably have a decent idea what these coaches’ philosophies are, but it’ll still be cool to see the two coaches’ first-ever matchup against each other.
Lambert’s lone bright spot last year was wideout Kojo Antwi, who racked up 679 yards and six touchdowns as a junior. We’ll see what the Longhorns can do, but they certainly can’t get any worse they were last year.