The South Forsyth football team raised the small trophy given to the Region 5-7A champion, and a minute later, War Eagles head coach Jeff Arnette made it clear to the team that there were bigger goals ahead.
"There was a time when this would have been enough," a slightly hoarse Arnette said in his postgame speech. "This is not enough for South Forsyth football!"
South beat West Forsyth 28-14 on Friday on the road, making this is the second time in three years that the War Eagles have a top playoff seed, after they did it in 2015.
That team was something of a surprise, Arnette pointed out, with a host of new starters and a breakout quarterback in Davis Shanley. The 2017 team had real expectations, virtually all of which they have fulfilled in a 10-game schedule without a loss in regulation.
"That's maybe the difference," Arnette said. "There wasn't really a shock. We didn't shock people like we did two years ago with the way we play. I think this year, some people expected us to play the way we did, and the kids rose to the occasion."
The one major question this year with South focused on quarterback play, and senior Cal Morris' heroics in non-region play quickly calmed War Eagles fans. Morris produced more anxiety for opposing teams in region play, and Friday night showed his full skillset.
Morris has shown a particular knack for deceiving teams on read option plays, and for South's first touchdown on Friday, he showed a handoff to the tailback and calmly jogged into the end zone from four yards out. West's defenders didn't notice that Morris had the ball until he was just steps away from the end zone.
Cal Morris has the ball, and West doesn’t realize that until he’s in the end zone. 7-0 South, 6:50 1Q. pic.twitter.com/xMFu6tfH53— Ian Frazer (@ianmcfrazer) November 3, 2017
"I haven't really been a running quarterback in the past -- this is the first year I've ever done that," Morris said. "I don't know: I just use my instincts and play like I'm in the backyard."
Three of South's scores, however, came on passes. Wide receiver Ze'Vian Capers was left isolated multiple times, and Morris exploited Capers' size advantage over West's cornerbacks, hitting the sophomore for multiple big gains, including touchdown passes for 23 and 20 yards.
"It wasn't necessarily planned, because when we roll out, we've got several options and Cal's going to hit who's open," Arnette said.
A 46-yard catch-and-run by Jared Honey on a screen came between Capers' scores, and South led 28-0 before West (7-3, 3-2 Region 5-7A) surged back with touchdowns to Ben Bresnahan and Garrett Woodall in the fourth quarter. The War Eagles (9-1, 5-0) recovered the onside kick that would have given the Wolverines a chance to make it a one-score game, though, and South made that the game's final possession.
The loss put West as the No. 3 seed out the region, set to face Mill Creek in the first round of the playoffs. South, as the top seed, matches up with a Mountain View team that beat Lambert back in September.
In assessing this War Eagles team, the comparison game inevitably turns to the 2015 team, which made the state quarterfinals. Morris, at least, knows where this year's squad stands.
"We believe we're the best football team that's ever come through here, for sure," Morris said.