After each of Forsyth County’s high school football teams were probed and interrogated – OK, they were congenial interviews that we thoroughly enjoyed – at the 2017 Forsyth County Media Day this past July, I still had questions about what was in store for the season. They were the sort of questions that could only be answered once the games were played.
Some teams will play their final game of the season tonight, so now we have answers to all my questions. Well, almost all of them.
How will the next quarterbacks fare?
It’s been mixed results for the county’s five first-year starting quarterbacks. Horizon Christian’s Jake McTyre, Lambert’s Bobby Gabriel and Pinecrest Academy’s Micky Mangan struggled. Gabriel and Mangan were eventually replaced by younger quarterbacks of the future but have still been able to make positive contributions for the team at other positions.
South Forsyth’s Cal Morris and West Forsyth’s Zach Burns, both seniors, been effective leaders and productive at their position whether using their arm or leg to make plays. Morris is undefeated for the War Eagles, and Burns has helped the Wolverines qualify for the state playoffs under first-year head coach Shawn Cahill.
Can someone make a deep playoff run?
Let’s first debate what qualifies as a “deep” run in the state playoffs. To my mind, reaching the quarterfinals, at which point the original field of 32 teams is whittled down to eight, is the minimum. That requires a team to win two games.
Of Forsyth County’s three playoff teams – North, South and West – I can only picture the War Eagles accomplishing that feat, especially if they defeat West tonight and earn a No. 1 seed. That’s the most favorable position to make a playoff run. It certainly helped when South reached the 2015 Class 6A quarterfinals.
What will be impact of new head coaches?
West first-year head coach Shawn Cahill had to replace an entire offensive coaching staff, seven starters on offense and nine on defense. And yet the Wolverines have won at least seven games and qualified for the state playoffs for the third straight season.
Pinecrest Academy’s hire of former Atlanta Falcons great Terance Mathis created a lot of buzz, but the Paladins have had their growing pains as he overhauls the program’s offense. Pinecrest is still looking for its first non-forfeit victory of the season after winning at least seven games the past three seasons.
Can Lambert defend region title?
The Longhorns couldn’t build off their milestone 2016 season when they won their first-ever region title and state playoff game. They were in familiar territory at 2-3 after the non-region portion of their schedule, but blowout losses to South (38-0) and North (45-21) all but eliminated not only their region title hopes but state playoff hopes.
One difference? The passing game. Lambert had 23 touchdown passes last season to just nine interceptions; that ratio flipped to four touchdowns passes and 13 interceptions this season. Senior running back Marcus Chatelain has been a bright spot, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark last week.
Will South Forsyth put Forsyth County on the map?
The War Eagles accomplished that at the very beginning of the season with a 17-14 double-overtime victory against back-to-back state runner-up Roswell in the Corky Kell Classic at Georgia State Stadium. Three weeks later, South entered the Georgia Sports Writers Association top 10 rankings in Class 7A for the first time. The War Eagles rose to as high as No. 4 and now sit at No. 6.
South can do more to improve the county’s football reputation with a run in the state playoffs. With a top 10 scoring offense and defense in Class 7A, that seems possible.
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 @BrianPaglia.