This story was first published in the Forsyth County News on Sunday, Sept. 8, 1996.
By Stephen Underwood
Enthusiastic football fans from around Forsyth County nearly filled the Forsyth County Stadium Friday night for an historic matchup.
In the first-ever Forsyth Central-North Forsyth varsity game, the Bulldogs had to play the visiting team role since the Raiders were originally to host the game.
It didn’t faze them. Dominating on both sides of the ball and taking advantage of critical North errors, head coach Bob Herndon’s team surged to a big halftime lead and a 37-6 victory to begin the 1996 season.
After failing to convert on their initial drive, Central made the most of the results of North’s first three possessions – which included two failed punt attempts and a fumble. Twice the Bulldogs got the ball inside the 20, leading to touchdowns of 1 and 4 yards by Doug Donofrio. The other drive needed just 33 yards before Bobby Kennedy ran in from the 4.
When the Dogs wanted to test the North secondary and put an exclamation point on their victory, they went to the air. Alan Slaughter fired a rocket to Ron Riddle for a 53-yard score to make it 24-0 at the 9:48 mark of the second quarter.
Then just before the half, a 48-yard run by Todd VanderHoff got the Dogs in position to threaten. Slaughter then lofted a 16-yard pass to Riddle, who used his athleticism to haul it down. It was 30-0 and the game was effectively over.
“You can’t play a good team and give them four touchdowns,” said North head coach Ken Townley. “Mistakes killed us.”
The Raiders finally pushed it across with 1:55 left in the third quarter, when Jeff Biggs completed a 61-yard drive with a 1-yard drive.
Perhaps the biggest credit could go to the Bulldog defense, which has been a concern for Herndon all summer. The Raiders didn’t get a first down until their fifth possession, midway through the second quarter.
“They played well,” said Herndon. “Inside, we were just a little bit stronger.”
Official defensive stats were not final late Friday, but defensive end Ty Carnes was all over and the Westbrook brothers, Bryson and Brandon, made a number of big plays as well.
And the offensive line, five seniors strong, made a lot of room for the rushing attack. Nine backs ran for a total of 310 yards, Donofrio getting 83 of them.
The senior closed out his night with five straight carries of Central’s first drive of the second half. They went for 52 yards, including one for 31, and a 1-yard TD – his third and Central’s last.
Making the biggest strides offensively for North was Lucian Burke, who had 64 yards in 11 carries. Quarterback Nick Wilbanks had four completions to Zack Singleton, who showed potential.
Defensively, Andy Coleman, Dale Edwards, Michael McBrayer and Biggs made a number of stops, but …
“Defensively, we didn’t play to our team’s potential,” Townley said. “Not to take anything away from Central, they’ve got a lot of talent.”
“Nick Wilbanks played well in the second half and Lucian Burke played well,” he added. “In the second half we grew up a little bit.”
Not surprisingly, Herndon was pretty happy with every aspect of his team’s game – except the kicking game and some penalties and turnovers by his second group.
“You’ve got to give North credit – they played hard,” he said. “Their plan seemed to be to stop Slaughter.”
On this night, they couldn’t – and it was the “visiting” Central team that did the stopping.