The first-round playoff exit in 2016, in a game lost on a late score that felt like should have been theirs, is still smarting for the South Forsyth football team.
But that disappointment and the desire to replicate a run like that of 2015, when the War Eagles rolled all the way to the state semifinals, has spurred South through its offseason workouts and spring ball.
“We were able to get a lot more in this spring than in the past on both sides of the ball,” South head coach Jeff Arnette said.
South has to tackle the task of replacing quarterback Davis Shanley, a Western Kentucky signee, but a pair of injuries has converged to make that situation a manageable one for the War Eagles. They return rising junior Drew Morris, who completed 65 percent of his passes in relief of an injured Shanley late last season, but the presumptive starter is Morris’ older brother, Cal, a rising senior who missed most of 2016 with a broken collarbone.
The War Eagles’ rushing attack was one spread among many names last year, but they moved Jared Honey from fullback to tailback late in the year, and the rising senior is set to take on that position on a full-time basis in 2017 after leading the team in carries last season. At receiver, South has rising seniors in Jaylen Pearson and Ryan Pontrelli who contributed significantly in 2016, and Arnette said rising sophomore Ze'Vian Capers has had a particularly strong spring.
Arnette was particularly positive about the state of the War Eagles’ defense, which loses a prolific tackler in Max Slott but brings back nine players who made starts. Landon Sims has seen his profile as a baseball player rise since the end of last season, but he made 60 tackles at safety last season and is set to return there as a junior. Arnette said Sims could also see time at receiver.
Jamal Camp and Luis Gonzalez, both rising juniors, have impressed on the defensive line this spring, and Ian Hunt, second on the team in tackles for loss in 2018, is set to come back at that spot.
But either way, South hasn’t had to scramble to evaluate and fill positions this spring, which bodes well for the War Eagles’ chances to reclaim the postseason magic they had two years ago.
“We were so far ahead of where we’ve been in the past when we came in the spring,” Arnette said.