Maybe it ended too soon, but the Forsyth prep football season was full of compelling games, performances and moments. The FCN sports staff looks back at the best of the best this past season.
Lambert 14, North Forsyth 13, Sept. 27. Lambert was in control. The Longhorns had a 14-0 lead at North Forsyth and looked nothing like the team that was off to the worst start in school history. The defense had thwarted North’s potent rushing offense. The offense manufactured scoring drives. But somehow, North came alive. Jamal Davenport scored a 45-yard touchdown run with 7:33 left in the game to make it 14-7, then the Raiders drove 80 yards in 2:42 – thanks in part to two pass interference calls on Lambert – that ended with a touchdown catch by Luke Slaton as time expired to make it 14-13. Then, it got interesting. North coach Jason Galt elected to go for a potential game-winning 2-point conversion, but Slaton dropped a catch and Lambert survived with a 14-13 win.
Lambert at South Forsyth, Sept. 20. It was almost expected that this season’s Lambert-South game would be packed. With an 0-3 record in the rivalry, South went into the season believing it had the more experienced team, believing it was due to break through. Before the season even started, players and students started the hype for this one. By kickoff, there was no more room in the stands. The crowd spilled out of the bleachers. People leaned over fences. Kids scurried around the concessions and tables like South Forsyth High School was Six Flags. The game came pretty close to matching the hype. South won a close game, 21-14, earning its first win against Lambert in school history and producing one of the best scenes of the season – the War Eagles student section, BCP, breaking a gate to rush the field in jubilation.
Cody Gottberg, North Forsyth. Gottberg’s job entering the season was simple. Punt. The senior was a back-up at quarterback, but third-year starter Harris Roberts was expected to be the Raiders’ leader behind center. All that changed when Roberts broke his collarbone against Alpharetta and was lost for the season. Gottberg was thrust into the starter’s role and charged with salvaging North’s season. He did that, going 3-1 as a starter in the regular season. But he saved his best for last. With the state playoffs on the line in the season finale, Gottberg torched South Forsyth’s defense. He completed 16 of 24 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions to lead the Raiders to a 17-12 win.
BEST BREAKOUT SEASON
Hampton McConnell, West Forsyth. Perhaps no one in the county had bigger shoes to fill that McConnell. He was replacing former West quarterback A.J. Erderly who owned nearly every significant Wolverines passing record and was the reigning Forsyth County offensive player of the year. He was taking over a team coming off its second consecutive season of at least 10 wins, its third straight playoff appearance and first region title. No pressure, right? McConnell quickly seized the opportunity. He finished with 1,704 yards passing and 11 touchdowns and ran for 794 yards and 11 touchdowns. By the end of the season, people took notice of McConnell’s skill-set – he earned an invitation to the Rising Seniors Bowl.
Lambert 24, Centennial 23. No team in Forsyth sweated out as many close games as the Longhorns. Half of Lambert’s games were decided by a touchdown or less, including three decided by two points or less. Lambert had to have this one. It was homecoming. It was the same game that led to the Longhorns’ five-game losing streak last season, a dangerous opponent who competed close with North, South and Chattahoochee. The Knights made things tough on Lambert in building a 21-3 first quarter lead. But the Longhorns stormed back scoring 21 unanswered points in the second and third quarters to take a 24-21 lead and improve to 2-1 in Region 6-AAAAAA at the time.
BEST COACHING JOB
Jason Galt, North Forsyth. All around Forsyth County, coaches produced impressive results. Sid Maxwell led Lambert from a school-worst 1-3 start to a home playoff game. Frank Hepler kept West rolling along with another winning season despite the loss of significant talent. Jeff Arnette led South to its most wins since 2003. Todd Winter navigated Pinecrest Academy through a tough region in Class A with a rash of injuries and a freshman quarterback. But few expected North to make the playoffs, let alone with the rollercoaster season it endured. The Raiders started 4-0, lost three straight and finished with three consecutive wins. Along the way, North installed a new offense and lost its starting quarterback.
Ryan McCarthy, Pinecrest Academy. Young talent abounds in Forsyth County. Whether it was West freshman linebacker Eli Huggins, North sophomore running back Zac Slaton or South sophomore athlete Grant Umberger, the county is sure to have plenty of exciting players for the future. McCarthy had the toughest job of all. He had to learn the intricacies of the triple option offense in arguably the toughest Class A region. McCarthy had his freshman moments, but the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder flashed dual threat skills in rushing for 282 yards and 10 touchdowns and passing for 468 yards and four touchdowns. Given more time, he could turn into one of the county’s best.