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Football: South tops Gainesville to remain undefeated in region
South Forsyth junior Chris Nelson carries the ball Friday during the War Eagles' 17-9 win against Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy for the Forsyth County News

By Robert Alfonso Jr.

For the Forsyth County News

GAINESVILLE — South Forsyth High’s football team knew the environment this week would be challenging against a talented and skilled Gainesville.

Its focus was containment and staying away from allowing the big plays.

The War Eagles managed to accomplish both with a 17-9 win over the Red Elephants on Friday night at City Park Stadium. South Forsyth remains undefeated in Region 6-7A.

“We knew it was going to be a tough environment,” War Eagles coach Troy Morris said. “We knew we were going to be in a fight. This is absolutely huge.”

South Forsyth [6-1, 3-0 Region 6 7A] had a sluggish first half offensively, as many of their plays were being bottled up by Gainesville’s athletic defense, which did not allow the War Eagles to establish much of a rhythm.

However, while the offense was trying to find a groove, the defense stepped it up. The War Eagles kept Gainesville [4-3, 1-2 Region 6-7A] from busting out for big plays, as it has done thus far on the season.

Both teams were hard-pressed to find the end zone, and the Red Elephants held a 3-0 lead at halftime after a Giovanni Martinez 37-yard field goal.

The second half was a different story, as South leaned heavily on its offensive line while eating up clock and piling up yards.

South QB Ty Watkins picked up a first down with his legs, then hit wide receiver Chris Nelson for another before running back Gavin Morris gave South Forysth its first lead of the evening, 7-3.

Tyler Simpson extended the lead on the following drive, drilling a 47-yard field goal to give South a 10-3 lead right before the end of the third quarter.

“Probably one of the things they did differently in the second half was lean on the run game a little bit more and play the four yards and a club of dust,” Gainesville coach Heath Webb said. “It kept us standing on the sideline and made us kind of press offensively once we did get the ball. Their offensive line kind of took over.”

South Forsyth’s best defense was the offensive line having ball control, which kept the Red Elephants offense at bay.

When it did get on the field, the War Eagles defense understood the assignment of keeping the red jerseys in front of them.

“Defensively we played great the whole game,” Morris said. “We tried to keep them in front of us. They have a really good tailback and their quarterback hurt us in the first-half. We made some adjustments.

“I just thought our defense played really well. They eliminated the big plays and that helped us settle in to play.”

Gainesville’s offense, led by Naim Cheeks and Baxter Wright, was bottled up most of the night.

Morris scored his second touchdown of the night with 3:31 left in the game, punctuating a drive that began at South's own 4-yard line. Watkins' 50-yard pass to Josh Nelson flipped the field, and a short run by Watkins on third-and-2 took the War Eagles inside Gainesville's red zone. 

Gainesville found the end zone with 14 seconds left in the game, but the two-point play was intercepted and Clay Walsh recovered the ensuing onside kick to allow the War Eagles to run out the clock.

South will host Denmark [5-1, 3-0 Region 6-7A] next week in a matchup of the region's last two undefeated teams.