They were the games we talked about for days. Maybe still talk about.
They were the overtime thrillers, inexplicable comebacks or playoff milestones. They were loud, crowded and crazy.
They were the top 10 games with Forsyth County teams from the 2013-14 athletic year — according to me, at least.
For the curious: Yes, there was a system to determine the 10 games that made the cut. I ranked games according to their competitiveness, the quality of play and the significance it had on a team’s season. Extra points for comebacks. Extra points for miraculous plays. Even more points if the game was on a big stage (i.e., state playoffs).
It should be noted as an encouraging commentary on Forsyth County sports that several qualified games were left off. There can only be 10, however, are here they are, starting with Nos. 6-10.
10. Lambert boys basketball comes back from 20 to beat West in OT
Lambert entered the Region 6-AAAAAA contest playing its fourth game in five days. It was a grueling stretch for the Longhorns with games against South Forsyth, McIntosh and Mt. Vernon Presbyterian in the Hoops In Overdrive Classic in the heart of the region schedule, one the Longhorns had so far navigated to perfection. No surprise then that Lambert came out rusty against West Forsyth.
But to be down 40-20 midway through the third quarter was unlike the Longhorns. Gradually, they chipped away, cutting the lead to 42-31 by the end of the third. The comeback wasn’t complete until Lambert senior Logan Bush was fouled on a driving floater and made the ensuing free throw to tie the game at 53-53 with 31.3 seconds left. The Longhorns went on to control overtime for a 61-56 victory and keep its undefeated region record.
9. Lambert football overcomes 18-point deficit to defeat Centennial
The Longhorns were already in playoff mode just six games into the season when they welcomed Centennial into The Horn on Oct. 11. A 1-3 start, the worst in school history, meant Lambert had no margin for error if it wanted to make the state playoffs. Centennial was 1-4 and allowing 43.4 points per game. It was homecoming night. Pretty good recipe for a confidence-booster for the Longhorns.
Instead, Lambert found itself down 21-3 with four minutes left in the first half and starting quarterback Tucker Maxwell injured. So back-up Hayden McLeod ran for a 1-yard touchdown, Maxwell returned and scored on a 7-yard run and Tanner Hall caught a 62-yard touchdown pass to give Lambert a 24-21 lead in the third quarter. Even then, Lambert was called for a safety and had to watch a potential game-winning field goal with 11 seconds left in the game sail wide.
8. North Forsyth baseball outlasts Johns Creek in 12 innings
The Raiders were off to a strong start – 8-5 overall, 2-2 in Region 6-AAAAAA – and appeared headed for the state playoffs. Johns Creek was certainly among the handful of teams with realistic expectations of getting in too.
So the two teams locked in for a tense, dramatic 12-inning affair that was decided when Brant Stark hit an RBI double to score Max Bening in the top of the 12th inning. Cory Campbell was impressive on the mound, pitching the final 3 2/3 innings for the win. Bailey Mauldin and Matt Heard each had three hits apiece.
North eventually missed the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, but Johns Creek went on to advance to the Class AAAAAA semifinals.
7. North defeats South Forsyth in regular season finale
For the fans, it was a perfect scenario – North and South meeting in the regular season finale with a spot in the state playoffs on the line. Neither team had reached the playoffs since 2010. That would change for one of them.
That it would come on the arm of North back-up quarterback Cody Gottberg was among the unlikeliest of circumstances. When starter Harris Roberts went down with a season-ending injury Oct. 11, Gottberg stepped in to lead the Raiders to a 4-1 record down the stretch. Against South, he passed for a school-record 300 yards with two touchdowns.
Still, South had a shot at the end with the ball at North’s 29 yard-line, but a last-second catch was stopped at the 5 as time expired.
6. North wrestling defeats Chattahoochee for area duals title
In many ways, this wasn’t the most incredible duals match between the Raiders and Cougars.
That one would go to the teams’ regular season meeting, the one where North trailed Chattahoochee, 34-12, a deficit that’s mathematically impossible to overcome. But the Raiders did – they won the final four weight classes to tie it and got an infraction by the Cougars to break the tie. Unbelievable.
So why this match instead? The stakes were far greater with the Area 6-AAAAAA duals championship on the line. North trailed 28-21 with two weight classes left – Jake Nash at 126 and Luke Slaton at 132. Nash pinned his opponent to pull North within 28-27, then Slaton won a 12-0 major decision to clinch the program’s fifth area duals title.
Coming Wednesday: Sports editor Brian Paglia reveals his top 5 games of 2013-14.