By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
There are few better ways to kick off region play than pitting together a pair of undefeated football teams on a cool night in early October with a blood moon hanging overhead.
Lambert visited South Forsyth on Friday, and for the first time in an undeniably unorthodox season, two region contenders duked it out on the gridiron.
There are also few better ways to firmly establish the fact that your football team should be taken seriously than routing a 4-0 region opponent to the tune of 44-14, which South Forsyth did to the visiting Longhorns.
“We knew with them coming in 4-0 that they were going to be motivated and confident,” South head coach Jeff Arnette said. “I feel like we jumped on them early, and that made a big difference. We weren’t able to put them away in the first half — they kept fighting and did some good things, and I felt like we should have scored a little more in that half.”
Given that the War Eagles averaged nearly 60 points per game through their opening two wins, it might be understandable why entering the half with a 23-point lead wasn’t acceptable for Arnette.
After deferring on the opening toss, South sandwiched a pair of Lambert three-and-outs with back-to-back touchdown drives that took a total of six plays — the second of which on a 75-yard touchdown connection between juniors Kyle Durham and Gavin Morris. The Lambert secondary bit on an effective play-fake, leaving Morris wide open and giving the War Eagles a two-score lead with just over 5 minutes left in the first quarter.
Lambert’s initial first down of the game came on a 23-yard completion on the Longhorns' third possession, only to be wasted shortly after by a holding penalty and a South Forsyth sack.
South answered on the second play of the second quarter by scoring the third touchdown of the night on yet another Durham-Morris connection—this one a 24-yard screen play thanks to a sharp, nifty cutback by the junior running back.
South’s final two points of the half came courtesy of the defense. Lambert quarterback Ashton Smith received the snap in his own end zone only to find himself surrounded by black jerseys, surrendering the safety via an intentional grounding call.
“I mean, they beat us in two phases of the game,” first-year Lambert coach Tommy Watson said. “Obviously, offensively we didn’t play well — we struggled to block them all night. We had guys running open, we just didn’t have time to get (the ball) to them.”
By the time the Lambert offense found their way to the scoreboard, South had already scored 37 points and had begun plugging in backups.
All three of South’s second-half scores came on explosive plays of 50 yards or more — one of them a 68-yard touchdown run by Senior Tre Green, who led the South rushing attack with 120 yards on 12 carries.
The other two were both courtesy of senior Mitch Thompson on both a 74-yard pass by Durham, then a 68-yard toss by sophomore Ty Watkins, who took over for Durham late in the third quarter.
“I’m glad Mitch Thompson’s on our team,” Arnette said. “Mitch is explosive — that’s an incredible word for him. We tried to get him the ball in the first half and overthrew him a couple times, but he’s one of those guys if you can just get him the ball and get out of the way, there’s no telling what he might do."
The Longhorns finished the evening with just under 300 yards of total offense, the bulk of which came well after the game was out of reach. While a 30-point loss obviously isn’t the ideal way to kick off region play, Watson’s Longhorns have put forth enough evidence through their initial four wins that they aren’t a team that should be cast aside just yet — regardless of the first tough loss of a new regime.
South finished the night with an incredible 562 yards of offense — 241 of those coming on the ground, with Durham and Watkins throwing for 246 and 75 yards, respectively.
While three wins may not make a season, and defeating one rival doesn’t earn you the region title — South Forsyth made a loud, undeniable statement Friday night: They’re real, they’re here to stay, and if any upcoming opponents haven’t yet taken notice, they could be in for a long Friday night.