It’s official, Forsyth County – you made Santa Claus’s nice list.
You’re filled with upstanding students, classy coaches and supportive communities. Usually, that gets rewarded on Christmas morning.
So if I were the big guy in the sled, here are five gifts I’d give Forsyth County athletics:
Region championship rematch
If you were there Feb. 17 when North Forsyth’s girls’ basketball team defeated South Forsyth for the Region 6-AAAAAA championship, you’d want to see the rematch too. As far as high school atmospheres in Forsyth County athletics last season, I didn’t experience anything better. The gym was packed, and from beginning to end the crowd reacted to every individual moment of the game as if each could decide the final outcome.
As of now, a rematch looks extremely likely. North is 11-0 overall, 7-0 in Region 6-AAAAAA and ranked No. 5 in Class AAAAAA. South is 11-2 overall, 6-0 in the region and ranked No. 3 in Class AAAAAA. They have two regular season meetings, first on Jan. 6 and then the regular season finale on Feb. 6. A third meeting could be a classic. Of course, a talented West Forsyth team that is 8-2 overall, 6-1 in the region and ranked No. 11 in Class AAAAAA probably wants something to say about that.
Football playoff run
Over the past two seasons, Forsyth County football teams have gone 0-6 in the state playoffs, and it’s my fault. I arrived at the FCN before the 2013-14 athletic year, a year after West Forsyth won a playoff game, two years after the Wolverines made a run to the quarterfinals. But with me here? Nothing.
In my defense, it’s been tough for Forsyth playoff football for a while. Since 2009, Forsyth teams are 3-12 in the state playoffs, and all three wins are by West. Only three teams have made the state quarterfinals since 2001 (West in 2011, South in 2001, North in 2001), and only one has made the semifinals (also North in 2001).
So here’s hoping Forsyth still has high school football to talk about next Thanksgiving.
There’s nothing tougher or more respectable in sports than sustained excellence. Right now there is Buford football and softball, Jefferson wrestling, Miller Grove boys’ basketball, Milton girls lacrosse, Walton volleyball and too many girls tennis teams to name (OK, fine – Walton, Marist and Blessed Trinity). And they’re all ultradynasties, winning more than – and in some cases way more than – three consecutive state titles.
So if three straight state titles is the standard, than we have two emerging dynasties in Forsyth. Both are at Lambert, where the girls’ golf and swimming teams, respectively, are coming off a second consecutive state championship. And both have reason to believe they can win a third straight. The Lady Longhorns golf team will be again led by Kayley Marschke, last season’s individual medalist, and the swimming team returns a bevy of talent in Nicole Raicik, Ashley Mallon, Katherine Aikins and Jane and Olivia Johnson.
Softball trip to Columbus
You’ll always see a Forsyth softball team in the state playoffs. With the current region alignment, it’s likely you’ll see at least three county softball teams in the state playoffs every season. The sport has caught on in Forsyth, with enough talent playing year-round on travel teams to stock local high school programs.
But while Forsyth teams have been postseason regulars, they haven’t been able to crack the top eight that make it to Columbus for the GHSA Softball State Championships. They’ve been getting closer. Lambert was just an out away two seasons ago. South went toe-to-toe with Brookwood this past season in the second round. Let’s make it a break-through milestone next season.
Forsyth athlete(s) in the pros
This shouldn’t matter. We focus on high school sports, here, the purest of the pure. Or at least the purest compared to college and professional sports. So Forsyth County athletics shouldn’t be any less meaningful or respected just because it isn’t producing players on the professional level (And I’m not counting minor league baseball, so South Forsyth’s Jake Drehoff doesn’t count).
But wouldn’t it be great to have somebody we could all root for, someone on Sundays or in Fall Classics or making the Saturday cut that carries the Forsyth name on a national stage? My guess is that time is coming sooner than later. Can’t you see Lambert baseball star Seth Beer batting third in the majors one day? Or West Forsyth girls basketball standout Jenna Staiti playing in WNBA All-Star games?
Brian Paglia is sports editor at the Forsyth County News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 770-205-8976 or follow him on Twitter at @ForsythSports.