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Football: South's energized backs set for clash with stout West defense
South Forsyth senior Gavin Morris turns the corner earlier this season during a scrimmage against North Gwinnett. Morris is part of a South backfield that is averaging 6.1 yards per carry this season. - photo by David Roberts

The similarities are difficult to ignore.

A physical rushing attack led by a dual-threat senior running back. A sophomore back with downhill tendencies who doesn't shy away from contact. A first-year junior quarterback with a big arm and an ability to carry the ball, too. 

Your 2015 War Eagles or 2021 War Eagles?

Perhaps both.

South Forsyth is off to a promising start under first-year head coach Troy Morris, and just last week, the War Eagles racked up 365 rushing yards against Lithia Springs, a feat that hadn't been accomplished by a South offense since 2015.

"It probably would have been more than that if we didn't get all those holding calls," Morris said. "We got a bunch of holding calls, which I can't complain about. If we're going to play as aggressively as we play, I guess we'll get a few of those from time to time."

Gavin Morris and Maverick Schippmann each reached 100 yards rushing, while Morris added three touchdowns and Jyi'qez Green scored on a 52-yard jet sweep. 

Through five games, Schippmann leads the War Eagles with 228 yards and a score, averaging more than 10 yards per carry. Morris has compiled 184 yards and five touchdowns in just three games.

Eerily enough, South is averaging 6.1 yards per carry as a team. The 2015 War Eagles' rushing average by year's end? 6.1 yards per carry.

Sam Outlaw led the War Eagles that season with more than 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.

These days, Outlaw coaches South's running backs.

"I just think he just has the perspective that nobody else has on our staff," Troy Morris said. "He's played that spot, he knows how to talk to them and he knows probably what they're thinking. We may try to teach it a certain way and Outlaw gets his own spin on it and is able to make it real easy for them to learn it or see it a certain way.

"I think Sam does a good job of realizing that the backs that we have back there are all a little bit different. He identifies their strengths and really helps us offensively have the right guys in the game at the right time."

South's primary backs — Green, Morris, Schippmann, Blaylen Lomax, Austin Uidel — range in size and ability. 

For instance, Schippmann's inside running and physicality remind South's coach of another back on the War Eagles' 2015 squad.

"Man, he reminds me so much of Jared Honey. He really does," Troy Morris said. "As powerful as he is and as downhill as he runs. He can catch it and he can block. You know, Jared played fullback his junior year before he moved to tailback his senior year, which is what Sammy did also. Maverick does a little bit of both; he does some fullback and tailback. Maverick's just a football player, and that's what Honey was."

South's rushing attack begins up front with left tackle Mason Cooper, left guard James Watson, center Brennan Hudson, right guard Kristian Dawson and right tackle Nathan Efobi. 

Those five were recently recognized by Georgia High School Football Daily for their role in Friday's win against Lithia Springs, when the War Eagles rushed for 8.1 yards per carry and five touchdowns.

"I feel like those guys have really started to develop some chemistry, and have been playing with a little bit of an attitude — just being very physical and knowing what to do," Morris said. "When you know what to do, that lets you play a little bit faster and more aggressive. Those five guys, I feel like they're very good football players, first and foremost, and their big and strong."

Morris also attributed the offensive line's growth to assistant coaches Heath Hover and Austin Hamilton.

South's run game has impressed through five games, but the War Eagles will be tested Friday against a stout West Forsyth defense.

West fell 30-27 last week to North, but the Wolverines held the Raiders to just 2.6 yards per carry and fewer than 100 yards rushing.

"I think the biggest thing is just how hard they play, and we get that every week in our region," Morris said of West's defense. "You're not going to run into anybody who's not well coached and doesn't play extremely hard. They fly around, man. They fly around and they're very, very physical."

Juniors Raleigh Herbert [45 tackles, 4 1/2 tackles for loss] and Riley Mckee [35 tackles, 6 1/2 tackles for loss] anchor West's linebacking corps, while edge rusher Brady Gillis [22 tackles, 6 1/2 tackles for loss, 2 1/2 sacks] and interior lineman Jay Helstone [26 tackles, 2 sacks, 7 QB hurries] are adept at rushing the passer and making plays in the backfield. 

On offense, the Wolverines lead Forsyth County in several categories.

Quarterback Keegan Stover leads the county with 1,112 yards and eight touchdowns with only two interceptions. 

Tight end Oscar Delp has a county-best 406 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 29 receptions, while Jaycen Harris is in the midst of a breakout season of his own with 15 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns, already a higher total than his junior season. Harris caught a career-high six passes for 126 yards against Walton, then followed that up last week with two receptions for 92 yards and a TD.

West has a talented rushing attack, too, as junior Peyton Streko also leads the county with 659 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, while sophomore Ryder Stewart owns 139 rushing yards and a score.

Streko and Stewart run behind an experience offensive line consisting of left tackle John Leonard, left guard Jace Kile, center Peyton Wall, right guard Billy McAllister and right tackle Max Freeman. Leonard, McAllister and Freeman are each seniors.

South will have to account for several players on West's offense, but Morris believes the same is true about the War Eagles' offense.

"We've got a lot of guys like that. As a matter of fact, I would say all of our guys are like that. They're just very selfless. We try to tell them that it could be a different guy every night," Morris said. "They've bought into that, and I think that's one of our best characteristics. It could be anybody, and nobody on the team really cares who it is as long as we're out there playing well."