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MIDSEASON REVIEW: Top players, breakout stars at the season's halfway point
Photo by Jay Rooney Photography

It's difficult to believe we're already halfway through the 2020 high school football season. As we reach halftime, let's take stock of some of the first half's top performers.

Three candidates for Offensive Player of the Year:

Kyle Durham, South Forsyth

The engineer of Class 7A’s highest-scoring offense through the first few weeks of the season, Durham has been nothing short of sensational for the War Eagles. Durham is 43-of-66 passing for 926 yards with 11 TDs and one interception through four games this season. More than half of those yards have gone to Mitch Thompson (see below), who is averaging a remarkable 29 yards per reception. Durham is also putting up gaudy numbers with his legs, averaging more than 10 yards per carry. He flashed his true dual-threat potential in a 52-27 win against Central Gwinnett, completing 9 of 12 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns, adding 117 yards and two more scores on just three carries.

Daba Fofana, West Forsyth

Statistically, Fofana could match last year’s rushing total Friday against North Forsyth. Fofana, a Navy commit, has 452 rushing yards and four touchdowns through four games this season, averaging more than five yards per carry and reaching the century mark on three different occasions. For context, Fofana amassed 535 yards and four touchdowns as a junior last year. It’s clear Fofana has the trust of first-year coach Dave Svehla, who has made the senior running back one of the focal points of the offense. He’s carried the ball at least 21 times in three of four games, and his 10 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown is third on the team.

- photo by David Roberts

Kojo Antwi, Lambert

There’s a reason Antwi is a four-star prospect. Lambert’s junior wide receiver has 20 catches for 347 yards and six touchdowns through five games this season, helping the Longhorns to their best start in eight years. He caught 13 passes for 221 yards and five touchdowns through the first three games, as the Longhorns were averaging five scores per game in the early going. According to 247sports, Antwi is the state’s No. 18 Class of 2022 player and the No. 24 wide receiver in the nation. He owns a litany of Division I offers, including nearly the entire Southeastern Conference.

Three candidates for Defensive Player of the Year:

Patrick Corrigan, North Forsyth

Perhaps the top linebacker in the area, Corrigan leads the Raiders in total tackles (37), tackles for loss (9) and sacks (4). He also has eight QB hurries and owns a fumble recovery. Head coach Robert Craft describes Corrigan as an old-school linebacker, a physical presence and a sure tackler – think Brian Urlacher. In fact, 29 of Corrigan’s 37 total tackles are solo tackles. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior is one reason North came into region play holding its opponents under seven points per game.

Patrick Corrigan
North Forsyth junior Patrick Corrigan carries the ball during a game against Alcovy. Photo by Jay Rooney

Dalton Tjong, West Forsyth

Tjong is West’s leading tackler with 42 stops, but his stats only tell half the story. He might not be the most physically imposing player on the field, but Tjong is an intelligent safety and one of the Wolverines’ two defensive captains. Oftentimes, his play allows his teammates to reap the rewards. Still, Tjong has a team-high two interceptions, as well as three pass deflections and 2 ½ tackles for loss in four games. His 16 tackles against Walton was one off a career high. He’s a key part of a West defense that is sure to rank among the county’s best by the end of the season.

Caydin Mowen, Forsyth Central

Another defensive back, nobody has as many interceptions as Caydin Mowen – and Forsyth Central didn’t even play its first two games. Mowen owns four interceptions in three games, picking off two passes against Cambridge and one each against Loganville and Gainesville. He also has 13 total tackles and one tackle for loss. If Mowen keeps picking off passes at this rate, he’ll end the season with 10 interceptions.

Three breakout players of the first half:

Mitch Thompson, South Forsyth

Thompson’s numbers are straight out of Madden. We mentioned his 29 yards per reception – Thompson has 18 catches for 527 yards and seven touchdowns, the best in the county by a wide margin (Tucker Hartsfield’s 24 catches for 448 yards and two scores in next closest). Imagine if South’s first two games didn’t get canceled. However, the most memorable play of the first half came with Thompson on defense, as South’s two-way player picked off a Dawson County pass at the 1-yard line in the final seconds of the game and returned in 99 yards for a touchdown, sealing a 63-49 win. His most productive game last year came against Hillgrove, when he caught three passes for 87 yards. Against Alcovy on Friday, he tallied 192 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions.

Mitch Thompson
South Forsyth senior Mitch Thompson catches a pass during a game against Central Gwinnett. Photo by Paul Ward

Oscar Delp, West Forsyth

Delp’s recruiting has taken off since the start of the season. In fact, one day after West Forsyth’s 42-6 blowout against Mays in the Corky Kell Classic, Delp received an offer from the University of Michigan. Since then, offers have poured in from around the country, including the West Coast in Southern California and Stanford, as well as in-state offers from UGA and Georgia Tech. Despite missing the Cartersville game, West’s surging tight end has 14 receptions for 325 yards and five touchdowns in three games. He enjoyed a career night against Mill Creek, catching six passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns.

Julian Bolanos, South Forsyth

One of the best stories of the first half, Bolanos missed portions of his first three high school seasons because of injuries, but he is assembling an incredible senior year. He made 15 total tackles in the opener against Dawson County, including three tackles for loss and a sack. Bolanos also blocked his second punt of the season against Alcovy, adding to an impressive resumé that includes an interception against Central Gwinnett and a forced fumble against Dawson County. Nobody wants to see a player get injured, and for a player to overcome a broken ankle and torn ACL to be ready for his senior year, that’s a story everybody can root for.

Best team of the first half:

South Forsyth

Don’t overthink this one. The best team of the first half belongs to the only Forsyth County team that is still undefeated. The War Eagles have scored 198 points this season and are averaging nearly 50 points per game. Granted, 63 points came against Class 3A Dawson County and the War Eagles hit up 1-4 Central Gwinnett for 52 more points, but you can’t fault a team for playing their schedule. Besides, South was supposed to open the season against Roswell (currently 4-0) before Fulton County Schools pushed back the start of the football season.

South’s defense has steadily improved since surrendering 49 points to Dawson County, limiting Lambert to 14 points and Alcovy to a mere seven points. Another player to highlight is Gavin Morris, who has been a revelation on offense and defense for South. On offense, Morris has seven catches for 226 yards and three touchdowns, plus five carries for 32 yards and a score. On defense, he has a team-high four tackles for loss, two pass deflections, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. Depending on the severity of Tre Green’s injury, Morris could step in as a lead back, similar to the way he did last year down the stretch.

Now, South might be the best team through the fist half, but several other teams also deserve recognition. West Forsyth is looking strong, and the Wolverines are a last-minute punt return away from being 3-1. If Delp played in that 28-17 loss to Cartersville, could West have won that one too? And how about North Forsyth? The Raiders were playing great through the first four games, especially on defense. Harrison and Hapeville Charter are solid wins, but that was before Denmark stormed into Raider Valley and handed North a 20-10 loss.

That leads us into our three questions about the second half:

How much does Aaron McLaughlin’s return change the course of Denmark’s season?

McLaughlin has been a shot in the arm for Denmark. His return last month allowed the Danes to keep pace with a talented Lanier team, a game Denmark just as easily could have won. But it’s Denmark’s 20-10 win at North that turned Region 6-7A upside down. Considering how well Denmark’s defense played against Greater Atlanta Christian and Shiloh, there’s reason to believe the Danes would be 3-1 right now if McLaughlin started those games. Denmark has the skill position players to win, and now with one of the top quarterback prospects in the country to get them the ball, in addition to a hard-nosed defense, the Danes are looking tough to beat.

Aaron McLaughlin
Denmark senior Aaron McLaughlin rolls out during the Danes' 20-10 win against North Forsyth. Photo by Jay Rooney

How good will Lambert be?

Lambert won its first four games of the season, beating Campbell, Lassiter, Meadowcreek and Duluth, but the Longhorns got a rude welcome to region play when South routed them, 44-14. Next up for Lambert is a trip to Gainesville, a game that will likely determine how competitive the Longhorns will be this season, with games against Denmark, North Forsyth, Forsyth Central and West Forsyth looming.

How far can Forsyth County go in the playoffs?

Forsyth County has a good shot to host two first-round playoff games this season, and the county could send four teams to the playoffs. Region 6-7A is matched up with Region 7-7A, which includes Archer, Berkmar, Discovery, Duluth, Dunwoody, Meadowcreek and Norcross. Of those seven teams, only Norcross (5-0) has a winning record. Archer’s 2-3 record is deceiving, however, as the Tigers lost to Lowndes, Warner Robins and Grayson, then beat North Gwinnett 14-13.

In the second round, it’s either Region 5-7A (Alpharetta, Cherokee, Etowah, Milton, Rowell, Woodstock) or Region 8-7A (Collins Hill, Mill Creek, Mountain View, North Gwinnett, Peachtree Ridge). It’s not unthinkable that a Forsyth County football team can reach the Elite Eight this season for the first time since South Forsyth did it in 2015.