Early playoff exits meant another Thanksgiving without high school football in Forsyth County,
but the FCN's Foster Lander gives thanks to the best of the best from this past season.
Lambert at West Forsyth, Oct. 24. Even without the storyline of Trevor O’Brien returning to The Den to face his old team, Lambert’s Oct. 24 trip to West would’ve been a big game. Both the Longhorns and the Wolverines were 4-3 on the season and in the thick of the Region 6-AAAAAA playoff picture. The winner would move a game ahead and own any potential tiebreaker.
Lambert led by 10 at halftime on the strength of two second-quarter touchdown passes from Drew Cole to Tanner Hall. West cut that lead to three with the only score of the third quarter, a 31-yard pass from Hampton McConnell to Nathan Schmitz. Grant Anderskow’s 92-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter gave West a four-point lead and seemingly all the momentum, but the Wolverines couldn’t nail down a vital win. West opted to take a safety on a punt from the end zone with 3:21 left, giving Lambert the ball back near midfield.
Despite being held in check most of the night, O’Brien bowed up and ran on all eight plays of the Horns’ game-winning drive, scoring on a bruising 7-yard run with 22 seconds left. Lambert would go on to earn the No. 2 seed and a first-round home playoff game. West missed the playoffs.
South Forsyth at Lambert, Nov. 7. To say the week leading up to Lambert’s Nov. 7 clash at The Horn against South was contentious would be an understatement. Students from both schools went back-and-forth on social media, and Manny Godswill’s Monday arrest didn’t help matters. Both student sections were filled 45 minutes before kickoff.
One referee, while going through his pregame paces, paused briefly to consider the noisy sections and turned to a Forsyth County News reporter. "There always this much hate," he asked? Maybe not, but with a home playoff game going to the winner, there probably had never been this much on the line.
South led, 7-6, at halftime, but it was all Lambert in the final 24 minutes. The Horns outscored South 34-0 in the second half on the way to a resounding 40-7 win, and Lambert students stormed the field en masse, flags raised high.
Tyler LaFlamme, South Forsyth. South running back Tyler LaFlamme was enjoying a breakout season prior to the War Eagles’ Sept. 26 game at Chattahoochee, but no one would’ve predicted his effort against the Cougars.
LaFlamme ran 35 times for 435 yards (12.4 yards per carry) and five touchdowns.
Four hundred and thirty-five.
He scored touchdowns in every quarter and two in the fourth quarter to help South hold off Hooch, 42-34.
""I’ve been doing this 24 years and never gave a game ball out in my life," South coach Jeff Arnette, not usually one given to hyperbole, said after the game. "I just gave my first one out…It was unbelievable. Probably single-game as good of a performance as you can get."
That Chattahoochee run defense probably won’t want to see any team from the southeastern part of Forsyth County again—Lambert running back Trevor O’Brien ran for 307 yards against the Cougars several weeks later.
BEST BREAKOUT SEASON
Shaun Diebel, Forsyth Central. It wasn’t a big coincidence that junior running back Shaun Diebel’s emergence coincided with Central finishing above .500 for the first time since 2001 and improving its win total by four games over last season. We would be remiss to not include Sabrian Howard, the other side of Central’s two-pronged Wishbone attack.
Diebel didn’t play for the Bulldogs last season because of off-field reasons, but Central coaches asked the track athlete to play football in January, and he agreed. Central coach Shane Williamson knew he had something when Diebel ran for 186 yards and three touchdowns in a season-opening win over Dawson County; the 5-foot-11 junior announced his presence for good with a 161-yard performance in a loss to state-ranked Kell. He was held under 100 yards just twice in ten games and finished the 2014 season with 1,370 yards and 12 touchdowns on 226 carries. Howard added 797 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 100-plus yards in four games.
Both Diebel and Howard return next season for Central. They won’t sneak up on anybody in 2015.
Pinecrest Academy 30, St. Francis 27 (2 OT). Pinecrest trailed St. Francis 20-3 with a little over three minutes to play and looked to be en route to a Homecoming loss. The Paladins needed three scores to win or send the game to overtime—meaning it would likely take a big play or two on defense and special teams for Pinecrest to have any chance.
Logan Hamilton caught a 25-yard strike from Ryan McCarthy to cut the St. Francis lead to 10, but the Paladins still had it all to do.
Pinecrest got the big defensive play it needed soon after when Jacob Hanley plucked a tipped pass out of the air and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Paladins’ deficit to three with 2:15 left. Todd Winter’s team then forced a St. Francis punt, and the Paladins then made a big play on special teams, blocking the Knights’ punt with less than a minute to play. Greg Metz’s 28-yard field goal attempt went wide as time expired, but officials flagged St. Francis for running in to the kicker, giving Metz one more try from 23 yards. He drilled it.
Metz stepped out again in the second overtime period, this time with a chance to win it and complete an improbable comeback. His kick from 26 yards was true.
BEST COACHING JOB
Louis Daniel, Lambert. Daniel, the Longhorns’ former offensive coordinator, stepped in for Sid Maxwell in April, as spring practices and workouts were already underway. Lambert had to scramble to replace last year’s starting quarterback, Tucker Maxwell, and replace a number of starters on the offensive line.
When the Longhorns started 1-3—in fairness, against a tough opening stretch with state-ranked Lanier and eventual Region 6-AAAAAA champion Alpharetta—Lambert was reeling. Lambert should’ve been familiar with that position. The Horns started 1-3 in 2013 and recovered to earn the No. 2 seed out of Region 6.
It was déjà vu in 2014: Daniel guided the Longhorns to six consecutive wins to close out the regular season as Lambert again earned a home playoff game. Drew Cole stepped in at quarterback and stabilized the position with his smart play and running ability. Sean Bailey, Cliff Snyder, Jack Huestess, Nick Nieuwhof and the Lambert offensive line got better with every game, and the stout defense, led by First Team All-Region 6-AAAAAA selections Adison Schimmelpfenning, Jeremy Johnson and Houston Earnest and second-team defensive back Patrick Noble, conceded just nine points per game during the six-game win streak.
North Forsyth coach Jason Galt: "They had a lot of Christmas celebrations. We gift-wrapped some presents for them…I felt like a one-legged man in a kickin’ fight," after the Raiders’ 49-0 loss to Northview at Raider Valley on Sept. 12.
Lambert running back Trevor O’Brien: "It’s huge. I’m speechless, I don’t know what to say. I’ve been looking forward to this game since the schedule came out; even during Northview week, I had West on my mind. That’s a game I won’t forget for the rest of my life," after the Longhorns’ 33-27 win at West on Oct. 24.
Northview coach Chad Davenport: "Their kicker killed us. I mean, how many times do you say that? He was unbelievable," after South Forsyth’s Alex Barbir hit field goals from 56, 52, 44 and 19 yards in a 33-8 win over Davenport’s Titans on Oct. 10.