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Football: War Eagles blow past Bulldogs for region win
Josh Nelson 10-20-22
South Forsyth's Josh Nelson hauls in a pass in between two Forsyth Central defenders during a Region 6-7A matchup Thursday at War Eagle Stadium. (Photo by Paul Ward)

Before the fourth quarter started, South Forsyth turned off the lights at War Eagle Stadium and had the fans swing their lit-up phones in the air to amp up the crowd.

After not giving them a win in the previous home game, the War Eagles gave their supporters a show by accumulating all of their points in one half to shut out the Forsyth Central Bulldogs 34-0 on Thursday night.

"I was proud of our execution and how hard our [team] played in front of our home crowd," South's head coach Troy Morris said. "We haven't got to the play in front of them a lot. It's homecoming and our team remained focused."

The Bulldogs nearly gave the War Eagles a turnover on their first drive, when quarterback Ty Watkins tried to hit junior wide receiver Dash Moore downfield. Defensive back Aiden Manalastas caught the ball, but as he was falling down, he lost control of it.

The War Eagles forced the Bulldogs into a fourth-and-6 situation, but an offside penalty made Central rethink its options. They opted to go for it, but it didn’t pay off with a turnover on downs.

South took advantage of the turnover with their junior leading rusher Maverick Schippmann punching it in from 1 yard out for a touchdown.

On the kickoff, the South took advantage of the Bulldogs' front line not paying attention with an onside kick that was recovered by Andrew Meersman.

Watkins showcased his escape ability multiple times on the possession. On a third-and-1, he avoided the sack and scrambled side to side looking for an opening. He eventually did and got more than what the War Eagles needed for a first down.

At the visitors' 39-yard line, South’s offensive line gave Schippmann a wide-open hole up the middle for a 20-yard gain.

As the War Eagles were relying on their ground game, an unsportsmanlike flag on the Bulldogs put the War Eagles at the 10-yard line.

It took all of two plays for South to get in the end zone when Watkins tucked the ball on a read option for a 4-yard touchdown to move them ahead 14-0 with 3:27 left in the first quarter.

The War Eagles wasted no time getting in the end zone after a Bulldogs punt. On second-and-1, Watkins threw a back-shoulder fade to Hayden Mock for the 3-yard touchdown reception.

The War Eagles kept the same energy on special teams. Junior Baylor Duncan laid the hammer on Central's returner at the 12-yard line.

The Bulldogs shook it off and silenced the crowd with a 27-yard reception by senior wide receiver Cam Yeager. Unfortunately, they couldn't catch a break, as a bad snap led to a loss of 14 yards, which prompted the team to lose momentum and force a punt.

Being up 21-0, Watkins tried his luck downfield. Again, the Bulldogs had a good chance to pick off Watkins, but the tipped ball landed in Josh Nelson's hands. He raced down the field away from two defensive backs to give the War Eagles a 28-0 lead.

On second-and-5, Brady Fogarty maneuvered his way past Central’s offensive line to collect a 3-yard sack. On the next play, Bulldogs quarterback Brady Smith came back and threw a pass deep downfield to Yeager to South’s 31-yard line.

The War Eagles came through with another defensive stop, though. This time it was Cole Williams, who came from his linebacker position, knocking Smith to the ground for a sack.

"I like how they play and follow their assignments," Morris said of his defense. "Last couple of weeks, we've played physical [and] confident. We're playing fast. They're jelling at the right time."

Central returned the favor with a sack of its own by Aidan White, resulting in a loss of 5 yards. Watkins shook it off and threw an on-target pass to James Margiotta to the 46-yard line.

Later, Schippmann contributed by advancing the ball 13 more yards. 

On their third chance, the Bulldogs finally got a turnover on Watkins with a stripped sack, and White quickly fell on the ball at the 49-yard line. The Bulldogs failed to cash in on the turnover with a quick three-and-out. 

The War Eagles offense continued to shine.

It took them 1:20 to cap off an 83-yard drive, with Watkins throwing his second passing touchdown to Margiotta after the senior found an opening in Central’s zone defense 18 yards out for the final score of the game.

Up big at the half, South decided to prevent any injury and put their second unit into the game, leading to the second-half stalemate.

With the win, the War Eagles improved to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in Region 6-7A. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs' record now sits at 2-6, with an 0-3 mark in the region.

"We never know how many we're going to score," Morris said on the offensive explosion. "We just try to take what is there. We had some kids make some really nice plays actually. We just come, execute, take what the defense is giving us [and] play hard. Tonight, it worked out well for us."