By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
A year removed from the most successful regular season in program history, the South Forsyth football team kicked off the 2018 season with a non-region matchup at Sprayberry.
The previous year, the eventual region champs narrowly defeated a talented Roswell squad in an exciting overtime win under the lights of the newly-converted Georgia State Stadium.
One year, one region title and one first-round playoff loss later, a significantly different War Eagle roster spent 48 rusty, gritty, mistake-prone, yet ultimately hard-fought and successful minutes holding off a scrappy Yellow Jacket squad en route to a 26-6 season-opening win, one that was far closer than the scoreboard ultimately indicated.
After an offseason spent inwardly-focused and with an emphasis on looking no further than each single task in front of them, South Head Coach Jeff Arnette’s squad demonstrated their intentions for 2018 in a perfect fashion.
“We started off the first quarter or so looking like it was week eight or nine,” Arnette said. “Then we had a couple of things go wrong.”
After exchanging punts, South put ball in the hands of junior running back Jordan Brunson, who used his second carry of the season to gallop 44 yards to the endzone. Six-and-a-half minutes later, he found it again—this time diving over the pile on a tough goal line carry and giving his team a two-score lead that looked in no way to be in danger. The War Eagle defense forced a three-and-out to finish up the first quarter and South Forsyth looked very much on their way to a week-one blowout.
Then the adversity happened.
With the ball near midfield, South’s Daryn Rogers bobbled a pass from quarterback Drew Morris that was plucked out of the air by a Yellow Jacket defender. The play would kick off a scoreless slump that stretched well into the final quarter, which included three turnovers, a handful of costly penalties and a failure to score on fourth and goal.
“All of the mistakes are all of the mistakes, but us not punching it in there—that’ll haunt me a little bit,” Arnette said. “We’ve got to be able to do that with the type of physical football team we’ve got, with Jordan Brunson in there and our offensive line.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, the War Eagles seized back the momentum. A crucial play in the game came midway through the final quarter in the form of a tightly-contested, 37-yard catch by South’s Colby Cruz.
Much like the infamous “Fail Mary” catch of the 2012 NFL season, Cruz battled his defender through what initially appeared to be Morris’ fourth interception and miraculously emerged with the ball tucked under his arm.
“I just always thought that it would be my ball,” Cruz said of the play. “He had it in his hands, but I just ripped it from him.”
The War Eagles followed with 13 unanswered points in the form of two more Brunson touchdowns. The junior finished the night with 182 yards and all four scores.
“He’s a D-1, special type of running back,” Arnette said on Brunson. “He’s got great character, he never complains, and he just goes to work.”
While far from pretty and in no way perfect, South’s week-one win was clearly important, particularly with the weight of the 2017 season riding directly in the back seat.
“I’m super excited about how the guys fought back after we made some mistakes,” Arnette said. “We’ve just got to get better, but this is a fun way to get better after a big ‘W.’”