By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
The 2019 home opener did not begin the way that the South Forsyth head coach Jeff Arnette would have preferred.
The War Eagles began their season with a pair of bad snaps, a three-and-out, and a 68-yard-run on Sprayberry’s first play from scrimmage that led to an early 3-0 deficit.
The response from his team, however, went exactly the way that he prefers.
The War Eagles marched 88 yards on 10 plays, with a Tre Green touchdown run capping off the first of what would be four lead changes in just the first half alone.
Three tough-fought quarters later, with each team nabbing a pair of takeaways and Green scoring three more times for the War Eagles, the South defense lined up for a final time across Sprayberry Quarterback Kyle Brown and looked to cement what was a 34-20 lead. They did so by sacking him for a fifth time — both ending the game and beginning the South 2019 season with the same grittiness responsible for its 1-0 start.
“Sprayberry has a good football team, and they came to play,” Arnette said. “They caused us some problems tonight. We made a few adjustments and it got better, but their run game caused us some problems.”
The “problems” came largely in the form of Sprayberry running back Damarion Owens, who in addition to the opening 68-yard run gashed the South defense on counter after bruising counter play to the tune of 15 carries for 190 yards.
In addition to Owens, Sprayberry receivers showcased superior speed throughout the night, repeatedly finding themselves behind South defenders for large gains and twice leading to quick touchdown passes for Brown, who finished his night with 165 yards in the air.
The South defense adjusted, holding the Jackets to a crucially-scoreless third quarter that largely helped tip the momentum in their favor, and forced two second-half takeaways on promising Sprayberry drives.
“We played much better defensively in the third quarter,” Arnette said. “Coach Walker and the defense really made some adjustments and shut them down in the third.”
Offensively, the War Eagles threw their own wrinkles at the visiting Jackets, giving equal playing time under center to sophomore Kyle Durham and senior Joe Slott, with each player throwing opposing skillsets at the Sprayberry defense.
Durham completed a pair of huge throws early, including a 59-yard touchdown pass to Colby Cruz, but he did most of his damage on the ground. The sophomore showcased his supreme athleticism, rushing for 46 yards on six carries, several of which came while scrambling under pressure.
“I think you saw Durham’s legs tonight,” Arnette said on the sophomore’s performance.
Meanwhile, Slott followed a sluggish start by settling down and showing tremendous poise, vision and movement as the game progressed, finishing his night with nine completions for 138 yards.
“As long as those two are playing well, we’ll see how it pans out,” Arnette said.
While both South quarterbacks were effective in their own ways, the story of the night for the War Eagle offense was Green and the five linemen in front of him.
“We knew going into this year that our offensive line should be our strength,” Arnette said. “Tonight, I think they showed that.”
The War Eagles remained committed to the run throughout the evening, chipping away a few yards at a time early and gradually pounding in larger and larger gains as the opposing defense tired.
Green finished his night with 162 yards on 29 carries and all four of the South touchdowns, one of which was a back-breaking, 41-yard scamper midway through the fourth quarter.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without them,” Green said of his offensive line. “I never would have scored four touchdowns without them.”