South Forsyth head football coach Jeff Arnette didn’t care about style points.
The War Eagles were able to draw closer to visiting North Forsyth at the end of the first half of the teams’ matchup on Friday night, but South went into the locker room still down 24-14 looking for a comeback. Arnette reminded his players of how simple things really were.
“I told them they don’t draw any pictures on the scorecard like golf – they just put a W or an L and at the end of the year they add (those) up,” Arnette said. “Let’s just find a way to win.”
True to that vision, the War Eagles’ performance wasn’t the prettiest, but it was effective enough to erase a 17-point second quarter deficit, and with South’s defense holding off a potential last-second field goal, the War Eagles walked away a thrilling 35-34 win over North.
South entered the fourth quarter with a steeper hill to climb than it did at the half, down 34-21 to the Raiders. But with 8:15 to play, War Eagles quarterback Drew Morris found Cameron Schurr on a screen pass. Schurr did the rest, dashing through a small hole in the defense and running into the end zone for a 48-yard score.
After forcing a three-and-out, South embarked on its most pivotal offensive drive of the game, slowly marching to the Raider two-yard line. Jordan Brunson, who North had limited to just 31 yards in the first half, punched in a two-yard score, and after the PAT, South had its first lead of the game with just 3:46 to play.
It was then up to South’s defense to hold and prevent a field goal. After a fourth down pass from Carter Mullikin to Nicky Dalmolin on the sideline for a first down at North’s 40, the defense knew it needed a stop soon.
“I knew they had a good kicker,” Jamal Camp said. “Knowing that, I knew the front four had to give a good push for our corners. I knew they were going to pass the ball.”
The War Eagles forced another fourth down, and this time they delivered, tackling Mullikin short of the stick and securing the comeback win with 30 seconds to play.
“Our kids just don’t want to quit, man,” Arnette said. “They proved it last week against Milton, and they proved it tonight. I think I aged about 25 years.”
For North, it was yet another close loss after other heartbreaking results against Kennesaw Mountain and Forsyth Central earlier in the year.
“It hurts bad, and that’s what it’s supposed to be like when you prepare as hard as our team has,” North head coach Robert Craft said. “You come so close and it hurts, but what our guys do is they regroup and come right back to work the next week. I’m confident we’re going to do the same thing.”
The game was entertaining from its outset. North capitalized on great field position on its first drive, with a well-executed screen pass from Mullikin to Trigg down the sideline giving the Raiders an early 7-0 lead with 8:17 left in the opening quarter.
The War Eagles didn’t take long to answer. On the third play of South’s next drive, quarterback Drew Morris took designed run, found a hole, and rumbled down the center of the field for an 80-yard rushing score to tie the game up at 7-7.
But North began to take control of the rest of the first half, starting with its next march down the field. Trigg sparked his team with a 45-yard run, and a few plays later, Mullikin took a keeper into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown run.
A 19-yard field goal from Thor Billstrom extended the Raider lead to 17-7 with 10:42 left to the half, and seven minutes later, Mullikin found Aiken for a 77-yard score. South was able to get some much-needed points before halftime, though, with Brunson finding the end zone from four yards out to make it 24-14 at the break. Billstrom’s 40-yarder in the third quarter extended the lead to 27-14 in North’s favor.
Brunson then scored the second of his three touchdowns from 32 yards out at the end of the third, which was followed by another screen touchdown from Mullikin to Trigg with 21.2 seconds left until the fourth.
Trigg finished with 114 yards on 19 carries. Brunson ended his night with 125 rushing yards, with most of them coming later in the game.
“I thought Jordan ran like a madman in the second half,” Arnette said. “I can’t say enough about how he ran and how our offensive line came out and played so much better in the second half.”