High school sports in Forsyth County is not for the faint of heart. Turn away if you cannot handle games of pure tension or inexplicable feats.
The 2014-15 season was full of such games, where the crowds were raucous and the competition thrilling.
So full that for the second year the Forsyth County News sports staff has ranked our favorite 10 games of the past school year.
Many were eligible, but only these 10 made the final cut. Here, in the final installment, are the top 5 games of the 2014-15 school year.
At the time, it was the first “gut-check” moment of the Raiders’ regular season – an eight-point lead that had turned to a 10-point deficit against West Forsyth, winner claims the Forsyth County Championship.
And it wasn’t just that the lead had evaporated; it was the way it had evaporated with three straight pins. North’s bid for a fifth straight county title was in jeopardy.
The comeback began with Connor Carroll’s 5-2 decision at 152 pounds. It was punctuated by what Raiders coach Travis Jarrard called the “Willis Reed” moment of the match – senior Tanner Buggs, wrestling in his first match of the season coming back from a torn meniscus, scoring a first-round pin at 160. It continued with Keigan Radake’s 6-4 win at 182. Then it concluded on Harrison Papineau’s 4-2 decision at 195.
The old dome gymnasium at Forsyth Central went mad after Papineau’s win, for the Raiders had extended its county supremacy for another year in the most compelling of ways.
It took Forsyth Central three hours and ten minutes (a long time for high school baseball standards) to win the one game it needed to finally be crowned region champions for the first time since 1997 (FCN sports writer Michael Foster had just learned what baseball was back then).
Central took a 6-0 lead in the first inning, and that lead grew to 10-1 after just three frames at the plate before Creekview decided to battle all the way back. The Grizzlies’ tying run was thrown out at the plate for the third out of the fifth before Central coach Kevin McCollum fired his team up. They responded with a three-run home run from Parker Morrison and an insurance run from Taylor Bauman to take the 15-9 win and region championship.
The game also featured 18 walks and stoppages of play for unacceptable toe angles on the pitcher’s mound (That was the verbiage heard), car lights in left field (accidental or possibly intentional) and arguments between umpires and fans.
A modern classic, for sure.
How? Just, how?
That was the reaction our newsroom had when we heard the broad details of Pinecrest Academy’s 30-27 double-overtime victory against St. Francis.
How, down 20-3 with 3:57 left in the game, had the Paladins managed to pull this one out?
How did a triple-option team manage to connect on back-to-back deep passes to cut the lead to 20-10?
How could St. Francis be throwing with 2:15 left, giving Pinecrest’s Jacob Hanley the opportunity to pluck the pass from the air and return it for a touchdown to make it 20-17?
How could St. Francis let Pinecrest block its punt on the ensuing possession, setting the Paladins up in St. Francis territory with under a minute left in regulation?
And how could St. Francis make contact with Pinecrest kicker Greg Metz as he missed a potential game-tying field goal, allowing him a second attempt that he kicked true through the up-rights?
After the teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime, Pinecrest held St. Francis to start the second overtime and Metz connected from 26 yards to put an end to Homecoming night for Pinecrest.
It was a football game without compare in the 2014-15 season.
Don’t mistake a game that ended 1-0 as a snoozer.
Oh no, on the contrary, it was everything that a 1-0 soccer game could hope to be. It had quality of teams in Lambert, ranked No. 3 in Class AAAAAA, and Lassiter (No. 5), and it had the compelling stage, a Class AAAAAA semifinal bout with the winner advancing to the state championship.
The eventual game-winning goal came in the 62nd minute from Lambert’s Maggie Hanusek, but only barely; the junior forward ran down a quick pass into the box from senior Emily Haugen but had to extend her right leg with every fiber available to get a shot off. “I think it got the top of my big toe,” Hanusek would say later.
The home crowd at The Horn erupted, but the Lady Longhorns weren’t through yet. Lassiter turned up the pressure getting good looks on goal in the 64th minute and the 76th minute.
But in the end, Lambert held on to reach its first state championship in program history.
The expectation all during the regular season was for Lambert boys basketball to reach the Region 6-AAAAAA championship and face Alpharetta. The two teams had separated themselves as the class of the region, just like the year before when the Raiders defeated the Longhorns in overtime for the region title.
So no surprise that it was Lambert-Alpharetta again in 2014-15, but no one expected the Longhorns to get back with starting guards Tanner Hall and Jake Morris and reserve guard Tre Ball all out for the season with illness and injuries.
Yet, Lambert had been telling anyone who would listen all season long both in its play and postgame interviews: the Longhorns succeeded because of the sum of their parts.
The Longhorns came back from 28-20 and 51-42 deficits to make it 56-56, and as the closing moments of regulation ticked away Alpharetta seemed content to let the clock run down and go to overtime as it passed the ball around the perimeter.
Then, out of nowhere, Lambert senior Artese Gatlin stole an errant pass toward the middle of the court and burst toward the basket for a layup with 8.5 seconds left. In the stands and on the court, pandemonium ensued.
After Alpharetta missed a wiiiiiiiiiiide open 3-pointer as time expired, celebration ensued for the Longhorns.