When West Forsyth travels to North Forsyth tonight for the eighth rendition of the “Leatherhead Rivalry,” the star of the show will likely be Wolverines quarterback Kiernen Hamilton, who has arguably been the offensive player of the year in Forsyth County and ranks sixth in the state in passing yards.
Co-star? Why not Austin Reid, who was featured on the FCN’s The Grind this week now that he leads the county in touchdown receptions. You might draw the main antagonist from the backfield of North Forsyth, which will try to play spoiler and finally grab a win over a county foe in its third try at home. Simon Holcomb and Cody Dwyer have been well-documented this season as two of the most electric players in the area, even if the Raiders have struggled to get things going.
Nevertheless, no Friday night production is complete or even begins without the guys behind the scenes, and when a rivalry game takes on the moniker “Leatherhead,” it’s hard to resist highlighting those who’ve gone unnoticed to this point. Maybe those whose names might be new to readers.
But that’s the nature of football. Not every position is glamorous, but in the end each matters just as much. It’s the beauty of the sport.
Find the No. 64 in white. That’s West senior offensive lineman Grant Sadler, who plays one of the two most forgotten positions in football — left guard (the other being, well, the right guard). Centers get recognized because they touch the ball every play, right tackles and left tackles are often the body guards of successful quarterbacks. And even when it comes to statistics, often it requires a reminder to fans that “pancakes” are not a joke, but an actual stat earned on the field for blocking a man to the ground.
West head coach Adam Clack singled out Sadler on Wednesday as one of the most important pieces to the Wolverines team, which is in the midst of a three-game winning streak. Sadler’s ability to pull on run plays and diffuse interior pass rush is complemented by his work ethic as a student athlete. He has a perfect 4.0 GPA to boot.
“Grant has consistently graded out as our top offensive lineman,” Clack said. “He comes to work every day and has made as much of an improvement in one calendar year as any player I have ever seen.”
Behind the solid foundation Sadler and his linemates create, West ranks second in the county in offense with 1,963 yards (392.6 per game) and scoring at 35.8 points per game.
On the other side of the ball, look for No. 31—Michael Bun. Bun is a defensive end for the Raiders who has focused on keeping his team together through a 1-4 start to the season. He leads by example, and his coach notices.
“He doesn’t talk much, but he epitomizes the phrase ‘lead by example,’” North head coach Jason Galt said. “He never skips a rep in the weight room, works his tail off in practice, is full speed every drill.
“Basically, right now, he’s probably our best defensive end. Of course his stats aren’t showing up, but he just has a motor. He’ll take up blocks and the linebacker will get the sack.”
Bun has 12 tackles so far this season—not enough to crack the top tackle list in the county. But tackle numbers don’t always equate to quality on defense. Bun also has two sacks, 10 solo stops and one quarterback hurry. No matter the numbers by his name on stat sheets, he’s going to go all season.
“(I) just play ball. Just play hard every down. Give it everything I got. I just want to be the best I can be,” Bun said. A junior, he’s also getting acquainted with being an upperclassmen on a varsity football team.
“It was pretty precious to me how I got to kind of experience what it was like to play on Friday night with all of these fans going crazy. In the beginning I used to be nervous. Now, I’m not nervous. I just pin my ears back and play.”
Bun and Sadler aren’t the only unsung heroes in the county. Here’s the FCN’s list of the top “under the radar” players on each team.
Josh Wiehrauch, Forsyth Central
Position: Offensive line
Why Wiehrauch: It’s hard not to notice Central running backs as much as the Bulldogs rush the ball, but Wiehrauch has been a steadying force on the offensive line that had to replace three starters this season.
Cliff Snyder, Lambert
Stats: 37 pancake blocks
Why Snyder: Senior offensive lineman Cliff Snyder has been a durable piece along Lambert’s trench. A two-year starter, Snyder has experience at three different positions—both tackles and left guard.
He’s also a leader in the classroom, boasting a 4.1 GPA and a PSAT score of 28.
“Coaching Cliff Snyder is a tremendous personal pleasure,” Lambert head coach Louis Daniel said. “He is a natural leader both on and off the field. His energy and work ethic are contagious throughout the program.”
Logan Stafford, Pinecrest Academy
Position: Nose guard
Stats: 4 tackles, one fumble recovery.
Why Stafford: As the nose guard in Pinecrest Academy’s 3-4 defense, Stafford is asked to do virtually the same thing every play: barrel into the opposing team’s center and either the right or left guard – or sometimes both.
“I’ve gotten triple-teamed before,” Stafford said.
Stafford’s sacrificial mission is to occupy as many offensive linemen as he can in order to give Pinecrest’s linebackers extra space to make plays.
“You’re getting beat up in there all the time,” Pinecrest head coach Todd Winter said.
That’s why Stafford’s four tackles don’t come close to explaining his value to Pinecrest’s defense. And college coaches recognize that. He’s received interest from prestigious academic schools like MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Washington University and Johns Hopkins – where his brother, Preston, plays on the football team. He’s a nose guard too.
“All of the defensive backs, they have their speed and they run around and get tackles,” Logan said. “They can do that because I take up people.”
Blake Oldfield, South Forsyth
Stats: 19 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack.
Why Oldfield: Senior defensive end Blake Oldfield is described by South head coach Jeff Arnette as an “unsung hero.” Oldfield battled injuries during his first two years with the team before finding his healthy toward the end of last season. This year he has sprouted on the field, tallying 19 total tackles, including three in the backfield, and a sack. He’s also a powerful fullback for the War Eagles.
“He is one of our captains because his teammates see his leadership by example in everything he does. He is a quiet guy, but nobody outworks Blake,” Arnette said.