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Football: Morris' overtime TD carries South over West, 30-24
South Forsyth junior Chris Nelson carries the ball Friday during the War Eagles' 30-24 overtime win against West Forsyth. Photo courtesy Paul Ward

Some things are best left unexplained.

Gavin Morris isn't sure how, but he knew before the snap that he would find the end zone.

Sure enough, on South's second play of overtime, Morris took the handoff and darted through the hole, made a cut and galloped into the end zone, scoring the game-winning touchdown to lift the War Eagles past West Forsyth, 30-24.

"I had a little feeling that I was going to score that," Morris said. "I just want to thank God on it all; he gave me this ability. I saw the hole open up and I was like, 'Game over.' That felt so good."

Morris' touchdown came moments after West kicker Kevin Petraglia missed a 31-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime. On the previous play, facing third-and-12, West QB Keegan Stover dumped off a screen pass to Ryder Stewart, who had blockers in space but lost his footing on the wet turf.

The missed field goal gave South the ball first-and-10 on West's 15-yard line, and after a 3-yard run and a brief premonition, Morris capitalized with a 12-yard touchdown run. 

"That was huge for our program. That was huge," South coach Troy Morris said. "To overcome all those penalties, and we had some misses on some plays, but our kids just didn't blink. They just kept playing and kept fighting, making plays when we had to make them. Unbelievable."

Morris was able to score because of a sizeable hole opened up by Chris Nelson on the outside and Nathan Efobi on the edge of the line. South's senior running sidestepped a pair of defenders who were in pursuit, then Kristian Dawson sealed the block behind Morris to spring him into the end zone.

South gained 138 yards on the ground against West, with Morris leading the team with 14 carries for 76 yards and the score.

"Our O-line improved so much it's not even funny," Gavin Morris said. "The schemes that the coaches have drawn up are huge, and just the versatility of all the running backs — me, Schippmann and Uidel. There's a whole variety of us."

Uidel had perhaps the biggest play of the night until Morris' overtime score, when he reeled in a 34-yard touchdown pass from QB Ty Watkins with 1:28 left in the game. Chris Nelson scored the two-point play off a reverse, taking the pitch from Morris and barreling into the end zone to tie the game 24-24.

Uidel was at the heart of several plays for South, both defense and offense. He had a highlight-reel run in the second quarter, juking and spinning around defenders to set up a South score, then had a nice pass breakup on a second-and-3 late in the second half.

"He's a great player. He really is," Troy Morris said. "He plays a lot of defense, and he's coming off an injury from last week, so I'm trying not to use him on offense too much. He banged his knee right there, but he's an incredible player."

Watkins threw three touchdown passes, including a pair of early scores to Chris Nelson and Josh Nelson. 

Josh Nelson set up the first score when he punched the ball loose on West's opening possession, allowing Ian O'Dowd to recover the fumble. A couple of runs by Morris netted 11 yards, then Watkins threw a 14-yard TD pass to Chris Nelson to put South up 6-0.

West answered later in the first quarter, using a 32-yard run by Riley Mckee on a fake punt to flip the field possession and give the Wolverines first-and-10 from South's 24-yard line. A 17-yard completion from Stover to Jaycen Harris and a 6-yard run by Stewart had West looking at a second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, but an illegal substitution call followed by an illegal downfield pass put West in a third-and-goal from the 11.

On third down, Stover targeted Ashton van Horn in the end zone, but Zach Hobson made a leaping pass breakup to force a 28-yard field goal by Petraglia. 

South answered when Watkins lofted a perfect 14-yard TD pass to Josh Nelson, but West marched right down the field, using a 40-yard pass from Stover to Oscar Delp and an 11-yard TD reception by Dylan Baggett to make it a 13-10 game.

Tyler Simpson's 26-yard field goal made it a 16-10 game at halftime, which it remained until the fourth quarter.

West took its first lead of the game 18 seconds into the final quarter when Delp took the wildcat snap and rushed around the left end 13 yards for a touchdown. South went three-and-out in response, but Simpson's punt pinned the Wolverines at their own 1-yard line. 

West engineered a 99-yard scoring drive with 10:03 left in the final quarter, which began with Stover dropping back into his own end zone and finding Delp on a 37-yard toss. A couple of Delp runs resulted in a first down, then a hard 18-yard run by Stewart and back-to-back completions to van Horn and Stewart set up West at the 1-yard line.

Stewart dove over the pile and across the goal line, and suddenly, West led 24-16. He finished with 144 yards and the score on 26 carries.

But South took the ensuing kickoff back to midfield, then Watson went to work. Fist, South's quarterback scrambled for 14 yards, then handed it off to Morris for a 2-yard gain. Then, on second-and-8 from the 34-yard line, Watson hit Uidel for what proved to be the game-tying score.

The win improves South to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in Region 6-7A play, and it also avenges last year's double-overtime loss to West.

"It's everything, especially for the seniors after last year's loss," Gavin Morris said. "I've only lost to West once my entire career, so it's always a big game. It's always the biggest one of the year for us."

West, meanwhile, falls to 2-4 overall and 0-2 in Region 6-7A. The Wolverines will look to rebound next week against Forsyth Central, while South aims for its sixth straight victory next week against Gainesville.