Best Team of the First Half
South Forsyth played its most complete game of the season last week in a 35-13 win against Lambert, an impressive feat for a team that won its previous two games by a combined score of 72-17. The War Eagles controlled the entire game, leading 14-0 after the first quarter and 35-6 heading into the final quarter. South’s only loss so far came in a 45-26 loss to Roswell in Week 1. Rather than a blemish, it’s looking more and more like a quality loss as Roswell is still undefeated and ranked No. 6 in Class 7A. Quarterback Ty Watkins has been nothing short of impressive as a first-year starter, while there aren’t many more explosive duos than wide receivers Chris Nelson and Josh Nelson. Gavin Morris, who missed the Roswell game, is a versatile weapon at running back. The War Eagles have also received some tough running from Austin Uidel and Maverick Schippmann. Cal Jacchia and Cole Williams have stepped up to lead the defense at linebacker, while Josh Nelson already has two interceptions. West Forsyth is the team to beat after winning the region championship last year, but South – which forced West into double overtime last year – looks primed for a title fight on Oct. 8.
West Forsyth’s 2-2 record doesn’t really tell the full story. The Wolverines have played only teams ranked in the top 10 this season. Convincing wins over Carver-Atlanta and Walton have West feeling confident heading into region play. Head coach Dave Svehla’s squad can beat defenses both on the ground and through the air. Four-star tight end Oscar Delp is the most prolific player, but junior running back Peyton Streko has been the most dominant player in the county so far this season. It’s going to be tough to find a team that can account for both.
Best Offensive Player of the First Half
Peyton Streko, West Forsyth
With all due respect to Kojo Antwi, Oscar Delp and the litany of talented offensive players in the county, nobody else had a better first half than Peyton Streko. West Forsyth’s junior running back is averaging 8.4 yards each time he touches the ball and put together a season’s worth of rushing stats two weeks ago when he carried the ball 22 times for 267 yards and six touchdowns against Walton. Dave Svehla loves to run the ball – Daba Fofana averaged 21 carries per game last year before his injury – and he has the personnel to do it effectively, with Streko, Ryder Stewart, and a big, tough offensive line. Streko is more than halfway to 1,000 yards rushing [68 carries, 513 yards, 8 TDs] and figures to reach that milestone with six regular-season games remaining, plus any playoff games the Wolverines play.
Peyton Streko, West Forsyth
Transferring over from Forsyth Central, Streko has immediately stepped into the starting running back spot at West and flourished. Through four games, Streko has 513 rushing yards on 7.5 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. He’s also been a threat receiving out of the backfield with eight catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Already off to a dominant start to his junior year, Streko will be looking to carry that success into region play and help the Wolverines make their seventh consecutive postseason.
Best Defensive Player of the First Half
Collin Miller, North Forsyth
Is it blasphemous to spurn the reigning defensive player of the year in favor of his teammate? Am I overthinking this? Perhaps. But Collin Miller put up some ridiculous numbers through the first five games of the season. He leads the team in total tackles , solo tackles , tackles for loss , QB hurries  and is tied for the team lead with three sacks. He also owns a blocked punt and a recovered punt. He’s been one of North’s favorite linebackers to bring on a blitz, and his 11 stops behind the line of scrimmage account for more than a third of the Raiders’ total tackles for loss. Miller is a key player on one of the county’s most dominant defense through the first five games and will look to keep it going in the second half.
Dee Crayton, Denmark
The outside linebacker has six offers from Power 5 schools and has been a dominant force for the Danes the season. He’s the top defensive player for one of the top defenses in the region. Crayton can play sideline to sideline, rush the passer or drop back into coverage. Before the end of the season, we'll be talking about Crayton as one of the best players in the entire state.
Best Coach of the First Half
Mike Palmieri, Denmark
Denmark has thrown one touchdown pass and is 3-1. That takes creativity. Even with Jacob Nelson hitting Che Ojarikre for a 74-yard TD pass last week, giving the Danes their first score through the air this season, it was a pair of pick-sixes that willed Denmark past North Forsyth, 20-17. And four weeks ago, when starting running back Amon Williams missed the Banneker game because of an injury, Dee Crayton stepped up and turned in a 100-yard performance to give the Danes a 20-14. Head coach Mike Palmieri seems to have pulled the right levers so far to get Denmark to 3-1, despite an incredibly young roster. The Danes graduated a lot of production from last season, but it’s going to be difficult to count out this Denmark team, already with a region win to their name.
Troy Morris, South Forsyth
Taking over for longtime head coach Jeff Arnette, Morris has the War Eagles soaring. After losing the opener to Roswell 45-26, South has won three straight, including their first region game over Lambert. South’s leading receiver Josh Nelson feels confident in the team with Morris at the helm. “He’s got that mentality to want to win more than any other coach to me,” he said recently. “He really wants to win a championship.” Morris has South looking to make noise in region play and into the postseason.
Best Game of the First Half
West Forsyth 51, Walton 35
It had to be this one, right? West Forsyth goes on the road and not only beats the No. 3 team in Class 7A but explodes for seven touchdowns in a 51-35 win. It’s the most points scored by a West team since the Wolverines beat Habersham Central 54-20 in 2015. We’ve already talked about Streko’s incredible performance, but Oscar Delp caught seven passes for 156 yards and a score, Jaycen Harris turned in a career-high 126 yards on six receptions, and Ryder Stewart averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Remember, this was a two-point game after three quarters, but the Wolverines held Walton scoreless in the final quarter. West sacked the quarterback four times, while Grey Brockman broke up three passes and blocked a punt.
Denmark 20, North Forsyth 17
If you like defense, you loved this game. The region’s top two defenses duked it out for 48 minutes, with Denmark narrowly coming out on top. Seven turnovers, two defensive touchdowns, and a blocked PAT. Jelani Miller and Georgia Southern commit Treston Jordan each had a pick-six for the Danes that ultimately allowed them the win. North’s duo of Dylan Lyerly and Collin Miller caused an uproar during the game, with Lyerly forcing a fumble that Collin Miller recovered, and Miller also blocking the PAT. The game ended on Kenon Dicks’ interception after penalties called back two different game-winning plays. One of those would’ve been another interception from Jordan that negated by a roughing call. The other was a 56-yard receiving touchdown by Logan Curry that was called back by a holding call. Any of the finishes would’ve been a phenomenal ending to the defensive battle.
Breakout Player of the First Half
Malachi McElroy, Forsyth Central
Who saw this coming? Well, for one, Malachi McElroy’s teammate Dominic Willi did. I was on Forsyth Central’s sideline last month during their scrimmage against Pope. Willi turned to me and told me I needed to keep an eye on McElroy. So I did. Since then, he’s racked up 463 yards and three touchdowns on 70 carries, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. He totaled 329 rushing yards in the first two games alone, including a 212-yard performance against Loganville. The Bulldogs’ offense fell flat the following week against Cambridge, but McElroy bounced back against Gainesville and ran for 108 yards and a touchdown. Central needed to replace some significant rushing yards from last season, and the Bulldogs seem to have found their guy in McElroy.
Josh Nelson, South Forsyth
Last season, Nelson finished with 31 tackles, three interceptions, four passes defended, and a forced fumble. Through four games this season, he is already up to 17 tackles and two interceptions, including a 72-yard pick-six against Dawson County. However, it’s on the opposite side of the ball that Nelson has truly broken out. After strictly playing mostly cornerback last season, Nelson already has eight catches for 239 yards and two touchdowns. One of the fastest players in the state, it’s going to be tough for teams in the region to keep him from adding to those totals.
Most Underrated Player of the First Half
Chris Herock, North Forsyth
North Forsyth’s linebackers pile up a ton of stats, and deservedly so. They’re fantastic. But the Raiders’ defensive line, led by Chris Herock, does a lot of the dirty work. One reason why North’s blitz packages are so successful is because Herock causes so much disruption along the opposing offensive line, which puts players such as Patrick Corrigan, Collin Miller and Dylan Lyerly in great position to make the play behind the line. So far this season, Herock owns 21 tackles, including three tackles for loss, three sacks and four QB hurries. He’s also played offensive guard and lined up as a blocker in North’s variation of the Maryland I. Herock might not be completely underrated – his coaches and opposing coaches know how good he is – but he’s a valuable player for North and worthy of recognition.
Trey Glymph, Denmark
The 4.5-star kicker/punter has been a crucial piece for Denmark this season. Glymph has gone 12-for-14 on touchbacks and 5-for-6 on field goal attempts. The Jackson State commit also played a big role in the Danes’ win over North by pinning the Raiders at their own 7-yard line late in the game. He’ll be looking to help Denmark as they fight through region play and try to get back to the postseason for the third consecutive year.
Three Questions for the Second Half
1. Can East Forsyth add to its win total?
East Forsyth broke through last week with a 26-7 victory over Riverside Military Academy, marking the first win in program history. Now with a win under their belt, it will be interesting to see how many more the Broncos can get. It appears their hardest games are behind them; East’s next five opponents are a combined 8-13. Next up for East is a home game against a 1-3 Mount Pisgah team that most recently lost to Hebron Christian, 43-22. If not then, East will most certainly be favored against Druid Hill, which is winless this season and has been outscored 33-373 in the past two seasons.
2. Who gets stuck with the No. 4 seed?
Congratulations, you’ve grinded through a difficult region schedule, maybe picked up a road win or two, and wrapped up the No. 4 seed in Region 6-7A. Your reward? Collins Hill. But not just any Collins Hill team – we’re talking about a team ranked No. 1 in five separate Class 7A polls and as high as No. 7 in two national polls [USA Today and MaxPreps]. The Eagles demolished Brookwood 36-10 in the Corky Kell Classic, won by two scores against 2020 Mississippi state champion Greenville Christian, and combined to beat Rome and Alpharetta the past two weeks 76-0. For the No. 3 seed? How about a trip to Mill Creek?
3. Does Lambert have a playoff berth in its future?
Lambert went 4-0 through the first four games for the second straight year, and the Longhorns are also 4-1 at the break for the second straight year. Lambert dominated its non-region stretch, outscoring its opponents 164-44, but the games only get tougher from here. Much of Lambert’s offensive identity revolved around pounding the opposing team with Harrison Peyton behind a tough offensive line. Unfortunately, Peyton suffered an injury against Meadowcreek and hasn’t returned yet. Ethan Terry and Kojo Antwi have filled in at running back, but Lambert’s offense is far from full strength. Can the Longhorns scrape together enough wins to reach the postseason?
1. How dominant will the Nelson twins be in region play?
Chris and Josh Nelson have combined for 18 catches, 459 yards and three touchdowns. They’re both much improved from their sophomore campaigns and are looking to build on that. They’ve accounted for more than two-thirds of Ty Watkins passing yards. What sets them apart is their speed. After Chris won state in the 200m and Josh finished fifth, they’ve only gotten faster. Will anyone in the region be able to keep up with the Nelsons?
2. How far will North and Denmark be able to ride their defenses?
North is sitting at 3-2 and has allowed five offensive touchdowns through five games. Denmark is 3-1 and has allowed only 38 total points. Both teams have been dominant defensively, which is why their matchup was such a slugfest. While the defenses should continue to be dominant, the offenses have been shaky for both teams. It’s worked so far, but will the teams be able to win games in the region by relying on their defenses? Will their offenses improve to match the defensive output?
3. Is anyone beating West?
As mentioned previously, the Wolverines’ record doesn’t show just how good they are. Head coach Dave Svehla will be looking to start his tenure as West’s head coach by going 2-for-2 with region championships. South has a real shot with their potent offense. North and Denmark’s defense could give West trouble. The region runs through West and their opponents will be taking their best shot at them each week. North beat them in their first region game last season before West ran the table. Will anyone take them down?