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Football: War Eagles down Wolverines, secure 9th straight postseason berth
South Forsyth's Hayden Mock stiff-arms a West Forsyth player during a Region 6-7A matchup Friday at home. (Photo by Paul Ward)

Unfortunately, South Forsyth special teams coordinator Chris Aycock couldn't attend the team's regular-season finale against West Forsyth, having spent the week in the hospital. But Aycock had to feel good knowing his players honored him in the best possible way Friday at home.

Boosted by a kickoff return touchdown and a blocked punt that set up a field goal, the War Eagles extended their playoff streak to nine years with a 24-7 victory over the Wolverines in Region 6-7A action.

"All of those guys who play on special teams just stepped up and played at a higher level," South Forsyth defensive coordinator Ross Walker said. "We talked about it all week that we had to step up to honor him, and that's exactly what they did."

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South Forsyth's Ty Watkins gets past a West Forsyth player during a Region 6-7A matchup Friday at home. (Photo by Paul Ward)

To be fair, the unit had some struggles in the first half, when the War Eagles missed a pair of field goals.

However, a defensive touchdown with 33 seconds to go in the second quarter gave South Forsyth (6-4, 3-2) a 7-0 lead at the break. Chris Nelson opened the second half with a 72-yard kickoff return to the house to double the lead.

"A tight game like that, both of those plays were obviously really big," Walker said. "Defense had been playing really well but dropped a couple of interceptions earlier. James Margiotta got the interception and managed to run it back. That put us in a good position going into halftime.

"Coming out of the half, Chris Nelson, who is such an unbelievable weapon any time he touches the ball, when he gets the ball like that in the open field, it's going to be difficult for any team to bring him down. His ability to run that back was big and gave us a nice cushion."

The blocked punt by Cole Williams followed shortly after, and this time, the War Eagles converted the field goal for a 17-0 advantage.

West Forsyth (4-6, 1-4) produced its only points on a 49-yard touchdown pass from Max Walraven to Bowen Orr early in the fourth quarter.

After a failed onside kick attempt, the War Eagles drove into Wolverines territory only to be faced with a fourth-and-long from the 25-yard line. South Forsyth elected to go for it, and Nelson hauled in a touchdown pass from Ty Watkins to set the final margin.

"Ty was able to get it off under a lot of heavy pressure," Walker said. "Chris was able to get behind their secondary and catch an amazing ball."

In the end, the War Eagles scored one touchdown in each of the three phases of the game.

"That's about as balanced as you can get," Walker said. "It's definitely a fun night for the entire staff and all of the kids who contribute on offense, defense and special teams."

Having extended its playoff run with the win, which simultaneously snapped West Forsyth's seven-year streak, South Forsyth earned the region's No. 3 seed and a first-round date with Walton.

The War Eagles will hope to have Aycock back for their trip next week to Marietta. Either way, though, South Forsyth will have plenty of motivation, just like it did this week.

"They played their guts out for [Aycock]," Walker said of the team's mindset. "They're playing their guts out on senior night not wanting to let each other down as seniors and the younger guys not wanting to let the seniors down on their senior night.

"It was huge for playoff implications, too. This will be nine straight years that we've been in the playoffs. It's huge for us. We set the standard in this county, and we had to win the game to maintain that."