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Football: South Forsyth season ends in opening-round loss to Walton
South Forsyth's Chris Nelson tries to fight off a Walton tackler during a Class 7A state playoff first-round matchup Saturday in Marietta. (Photo by Cecil Copeland)

The Walton Raiders met the South Forsyth War Eagles in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs, where the Raiders won by a 35-21 score on Saturday at Raider Valley.

Walton (9-2, 4-1 Region 5-7A) had won four straight games in dominating fashion to end the regular season and secure the second-place spot in its region. The Raider offense had been key to the team’s success and that was the case yet again against South Forsyth.

The Raiders totaled 450 yards of offense in the contest, largely behind quarterback Jeremy Hecklinski and running back Makari Bodiford.

Hecklinski passed for 338 yards, completed 21 of his 33 throws, threw two touchdowns and rushed for another. Behind him, Bodiford rushed for 132 yards on 27 carries and also found the end zone twice.

Scoring opened on the game’s first drive, as Walton put together a 10-play, 80-yard drive finished off with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Wyatt Sonderman.

South Forsyth answered immediately after, as the War Eagles put together a scoring drive of their own. Quarterback Ty Watkins took a run up the middle 32 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.

However, Walton kept its foot on the gas and scored again. This time, Hecklinski found the end zone after being flushed out of the pocket and dove for the pylon on a 9-yard scramble to put the Raiders back in front.

Coming out of halftime, South Forsyth needed a score to get back into the game. On the half’s first drive, Watkins found Chris Nelson for an 80-yard touchdown pass to tie the game once again.

However, this is where Walton stepped its game up and played much cleaner football. The combination of Bodiford’s rushing and tight end Hunter Teal totaling 113 yards on receptions began to wear down the War Eagle defense.

South Forsyth did score again late in the game by way of another big pass from Watkins to Dash Moore, but at this point, it was too little, too late, as even after the score Walton was up by 14 with less than a minute to play.

In the second round of the playoffs, Walton will face Buford, a team that handily defeated a good Peachtree Ridge team by a score of 63-6.

Meanwhile, South Forsyth's season comes to a close at 6-5. The Region 6-7A No. 3 seed reached the postseason for the ninth straight year.