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Halftime: An in-depth look at Weeks 4-6
Peyton Streko 09-26-22
West Forsyth's Peyton Streko heads upfield after stiff-arming a Cherokee defender to the turf during a 34-7 win Sept. 16 at home. (Photo by Derrick Richemond)

With half of the high school football regular season complete, these are the players, games and storylines that defined the second quarter of the 2022 campaign in Forsyth County.

FIVE STORYLINES TO FOLLOW

1. Lambert leads from the front

Lambert has looked impressive in all three phases of the game en route to its 5-0 start to the season, which has vaulted the Longhorns into the AJC poll for the time since 2011. One key factor for Lambert has been its ability to avoid falling behind. The Longhorns have yet to trail in four of their games this year, including a 43-20 victory against Flowery Branch and a 31-24 win over East Coweta. Those wins during the second quarter of the regular season have kept Lambert atop the FCN public school football power rankings. The only time the Longhorns have trailed was a few seconds against Mountain View before Tommy Lafayette returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Sure, the team will face quite the shock once it eventually is faced with a substantial deficit. Until then, first-year head coach Marc Beach will look to continue leading from the front.

2. Comeback kids

Denmark continues to showcase an uncanny ability to hang around, make key plays down the stretch and escape with narrow victories. Since a loss to Roswell in their opener, the Danes have strung together wins against Cambridge (17-15), Harrison (25-21), Pebblebrook (17-14) and Dacula (28-25) by a total of 12 points. Denmark trailed 7-0 against Pebblebrook before scoring 17 unanswered points and overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the turnover column. The Danes followed it up with their most impressive comeback, rallying from a 25-7 deficit with 21 straight points in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, North Forsyth came from behind in the fourth quarters of its first two Region 8-6A games. The Raiders scored a pair of touchdowns in the final stanza to top Jackson County, 14-3, and came out on top in a wild, 42-34 win against Shiloh by scoring the final 21 points.

3. Private schools struggling for consistency

Whether it's a greater distribution of talent across the area or just some early season struggles, the trio of Forsyth County programs competing in GAPPS have battled inconsistency this season. During Weeks 4-6, the programs at Fideles Christian, Horizon Christian and Pinecrest Academy went a combined 4-5. The Rangers (3-2) posted the only winning record among the group, earning convincing wins over Central Christian and Covington Academy before falling in a high-scoring matchup with Victory Baptist. In its two defeats this year, Fideles has allowed a total of 102 points, albeit managing 82 itself. Horizon (2-3) suffered a pair of heavy losses to King's Way Christian and Victory Baptist but bounced back last week versus Lafayette Christian. As for Pinecrest, the Paladins (2-3) downed Harvester Christian but got blown out by Skipstone Academy and Lanier Christian. 

4. Special (and not-so special) teams

Offense and defense comprise the majority of a high school football game, but nothing manages to swing the outcome of a matchup quite like a big play on special teams. Denmark benefitted from a pair of huge plays in the all-important third phase to edge out Pebblebrook and Dacula. In the Pebblebrook game, kicker Hamilton DiBoyan, who drilled a walk-off winner versus Cambridge, connected on a 52-yard field goal in a game ultimately decided by three points. Against Dacula, Che Ojarikre returned a punt for a touchdown to give the Danes the lead for the first time. Another common occurrence on special teams is blocked kicks, much more so than its collegiate and NFL counterparts. South Forsyth's Maverick Schippmann blocked multiple kicks against Brookwood. Unfortunately, East Forsyth saw a go-ahead field goal try blocked in the waning moments of its first loss.

5. Transitive property myth

The transitive property of order states that if A>B and B>C then A>C. Well, that doesn't really apply to high school football. One example can be found in the somewhat bizarre set of results for games between North Forsyth, West Forsyth, Cambridge and Creekview. North Forsyth defeated West Forsyth, 28-24. West Forsyth defeated Cambridge, 42-35. Cambridge defeated Creekview, 28-0. That would seem to indicate that Creekview would lose to North Forsyth, but as it turned out, the Grizzlies beat the Raiders, 35-7. Similarly, East Forsyth edged out Cedar Shoals by a 22-16 margin, while Cedar Shoals downed Walnut Grove, 35-28. And yet, the Broncos lost to Walnut Grove in a 7-6 defensive slugfest. So while it might seem easy to say East Forsyth should beat an East Hall team coming off a 49-21 setback against Cedar Shoals, be wary of the transitive property myth.

TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYERS

Logan Curry, North Forsyth wide receiver

Curry is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. By his standards, the senior was fairly quiet against Creekview and Jackson County, with just 108 yards on 11 catches, but Curry scored touchdowns against both. He followed that up with a stellar showing versus Shiloh, turning five receptions into 121 yards and three touchdowns. In total, Curry is up to 552 receiving yards, 920 all-purpose yards and six scores on the season.

Peyton Streko, West Forsyth running back

Against Cherokee, Streko managed 229 total yards and three touchdowns on 21 touches. And that was, by far, his less impressive of two games during the Weeks 4-6 window. In the other, the senior quite literally ran all over Cambridge. The Air Force Academy commit compiled 327 yards on the ground, caught a 30-yard screen pass and found the end zone five times. On the season, Streko has managed 758 rushing yards, 139 receiving yards and 10 TDs.

Ty Watkins, South Forsyth quarterback

In the second half of the season, Forsyth County will be hard-pressed to have a player put together a performance as uniquely dominant as Watkins produced against Clarke Central. During a game in which his team needed all of the points they could manage, the senior went off. Watkins finished 16-for-24 passing for 300 yards and a touchdown, racked up 79 rushing yards and two scores, and hauled in a 49-yard touchdown pass.

TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYERS

Dee Crayton, Denmark linebacker

There are several reasons Clemson and several other major college programs courted Crayton during his recruiting process. One of those reasons is certainly his ability to create big plays. The senior Tigers commit made more than a few in recent weeks, returning an interception for a touchdown against Harrison, totaling three rushing TDs versus Harrison and Pebblebrook, and recording a game-sealing interception against Dacula.

Raleigh Herbert, West Forsyth linebacker

Even though game-changing plays are key, consistency and being in the right place is paramount for linebackers. Herbert exemplifies that quality, while adding his fair share of big moments. Herbert has been credited with 49 tackles this season, with 19 coming in the massive victory over Cambridge. Five of his six tackles for loss and both of his sacks occurred versus Cherokee. The Furman commit also caused a fumble in each of those two games.

Chris Herock, North Forsyth defensive lineman

Herock's teammate Collin Miller continues to shine at linebacker, but Herock showcased his talent several times in recent weeks. A menace along the defensive front, Herock causes problems for opposing defenses with his strength and deceptive speed. Possibly, his biggest play of the season came on a scoop-and-score late against Shiloh, his fourth fumble recovery of the year. Entering that game, Herock had totaled 30 tackles and six sacks.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Denmark keeps finding ways

Cats famously have nine lives. Well, it's possible dogs do, as well, or at least the Danes from Denmark. In Week 2, the Danes rallied in the final minutes to edge Cambridge on Hamilton DiBoyan's field goal as time expired. That wound up being a mere appetizer for a three-game run during Weeks 4-6 that included victories over Harrison, Pebblebrook and Dacula, with the latter two coming away from home. In keeping with the narrative established against Cambridge, Denmark and backup quarterback Kohl Yearwood eked out each of those games, capped by a miracle fourth-quarter rally to spoil Dacula's homecoming. At some point, these comebacks will stop being surprising, but they should never fail to impress. Oh yeah, it's also likely that starting quarterback Jacob Nelson returns soon.

GUTSIEST PERFORMANCE

North Forsyth 42, Shiloh 34

To be honest, any of Denmark's recent wins could have qualified for this spot, particularly the rally versus Dacula. But the nod is going to North Forsyth for a similarly stunning comeback against Shiloh. Playing in just their second home game of the season, the Raiders trailed 26-14 entering the fourth quarter. The teams exchanged scores, leaving North Forsyth down 34-21 with only eight minutes to go. A two-play, 80-yard drive cut the deficit to one possession again, and Colton Constable picked off a pass to give the ball back to the Raiders. A slip screen to Karson McBrayer on fourth down allowed North Forsyth to take the lead, and Chris Herock's fumble return for a touchdown padded the final margin, giving the Raiders their second come-from-behind win in as many Region 8-6A games.

BEST GAME

West Forsyth 42, Cambridge 35

Again, any of Denmark's games and North Forsyth's victory over Shiloh made strong cases for this honor. However, it's impossible to go against the fascinating back-and-forth nature of the West Forsyth-Cambridge meeting from Week 4. The Wolverines took the lead six different times, but the first five TDs by the hosts wound up being matched on the ensuing drive by the Bears. Until a late strip sack, West Forsyth never had possession with a chance to go ahead by two scores. The game entered the fourth quarter tied at 21-apiece before the craziness began in earnest. Adding another layer to the instant classic, Peyton Streko recorded each of his team's three fourth-quarter touchdowns and scored five total. He also threatened the school record of 350 rushing yards in a game, finishing 23 shy.

BEST MOMENT

South Forsyth gets tricky

As noted above, South Forsyth quarterback Ty Watkins scored a receiving touchdown in a 41-34 victory against Clarke Central. A lot of trick plays that involve passes to the quarterback happen near the goal line, many deriving from the famed Philly Special used by the Eagles in their Super Bowl LII win against the Patriots. This particular play, though, executed by the War Eagles started at almost midfield. Watkins began the play with a backwards pass to wide receiver James Margiotta, who then threw it back to Watkins. With all five of his offensive linemen out in front, the senior followed his convoy down the sideline. Watkins shrugged off one attempted tackle from behind and picked up a key downfield block from his right tackle to make his way into the end zone.