All four Forsyth school coaches gave their teams the same diagnosis heading into Saturday’s Region 6-AAAAAA duals meet at West Forsyth High School.
Recovered, and in the nick of time.
West’s leading senior Denver Stonecheck has been battling nagging injuries to his neck and ribs. South’s Felipe Hayes is recovering from strep throat. Lambert will finally return brothers Will and Eric Kohlins after they missed significant time after a strong start to the season.
North Forsyth, the most favored of the county squads, returns Bradley Thomas, who missed most of the season with appendicitis.
Call the area duals a post-season tournament of sorts, but for West head coach Steven Stromie and the rest of his crew, as well as his counterparts, there was a sigh of relief in the gym during Wednesday’s practice that likened more to surviving a training camp.
“Finally,” Stromie said. “This will be the first weekend we have all 14 original starters in the lineup. I was hoping we’d be able to put things together early in the season, but we had two guys injured early on, two guys coming down on their weight plans. We had the best week of practice all year. We had everybody in the room, everybody’s healthy, and we have nine seniors who know it’s their last year.”
If the Wolverines qualify for state, it will be their first trip since Stromie took over after his father five seasons ago. Standing in the way is North, which has gone 25-5 in duals so far this season. The Raiders, defending region champions in traditional and duals, will have freshman or sophomores at 10 of 14 starting positions. They’ll be the younger team on the block.
“So far, (the younger players) have really exceeded expectations,” North head coach Travis Jerrard said. “All five of our losses are to a team that won a state championship. We’ve beat some state title winners as well.”
Lambert head coach Kevin Contardi says the team has struggled all season, but could finally blossom with the Kohlins brothers, as well as Cole Burke, back from the sideline.
“This weekend will be the first time that we have our best guys in the lineup,” Contardi said. “As long as we can come in and be healthy we feel like we can have a good showing.”
South head coach Mike Beckley likes his team’s prospects of advancing.
“I believe South has just as good of a chance as the other top seeds,” Beckley said. “A lot will come down to which team can avoid any missteps or letdowns at key spots during the close matches. I have seen many one point victories catapult a team on to the next round, or even state.”
The top two teams from the region duals will advance to the state duals meet in Macon, next weekend. All four Forsyth schools have been seeded at the top of the bracket, with Chattahoochee leading off the north Fulton schools at No. 5. The bottom four seeds will dual in an opening round to cut the field to eight teams. The winner of the bracket will take the championship and top seed, while a second place bracket and consolation bracket will determine the second and third place teams.
1. North Forsyth
3. South Forsyth
4. West Forsyth
6. Habersham Central
7. Johns Creek