South Forsyth has been a model of consistency over the past six years, reaching the playoffs in every season since 2014.
Provided the War Eagles get a chance to play this season, there’s reason to believe South can extend its streak to seven straight seasons in 2020.
“We’re probably bringing back as much experience as I’ve ever had here -- this will be my 11th year,” South head coach Jeff Arnette said. “I think this is the most guys we’ve had coming back that got quarters in varsity games. That’s on offense, defense and special teams.”
Despite losing a starting quarterback, a pair of outstanding receivers and the team’s leading tackler among others, Arnette believes his War Eagles are bringing back more than they lost.
South returns Kyle Durham, a dual-threat quarterback who missed a chunk of his sophomore season because of a broken hand.
When he was healthy last year, Durham completed 47 of 78 passes for 815 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions in five games. He also carried the ball 40 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s gotten a lot bigger, a lot stronger. His arm’s a lot stronger (and) healthy,” Arnette said. “I feel like every day we go out there he gets a little more comfortable leading out there and doing what he does. I think he can do great things for us. We’re excited about our quarterback position.”
His biggest target — literally — will be 6-foot-7, 220-pound tight end Devin McGlockton, who was the 2019-20 Forsyth County News Basketball Player of the Year.
South must replace the production of wide receivers Colby Cruz and Cameron Schurr, who combined to catch 91 passes for 1,588 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, but a big target such as McGlockton should help tremendously.
“He’s gotten so much faster this year,” Arnette said of McGlockton. “That’s what I think people are going to be absolutely shocked about, is the amount of speed he picked up this offseason. You know, catching the ball and doing all those things, blocking; he was really good last year, but I think his biggest improvement is in his speed. His hands are unbelievable. He’s always had that. I think people are going to be shocked with the speed that he’s increased in this offseason.”
Senior Tre Green tied for the team lead with 12 touchdowns last season despite injuring his leg against Milton. In his first six games of the season, Green tallied 444 yards and 11 touchdowns on 99 carries, enjoying a season high 163 yards and three touchdowns against Lambert the week before his injury.
“Tre Green ran the ball for us a ton last year. He wasn’t healthy the whole year, but when he was healthy, he was really good for us,” Arnette said. “He’s back, and we’ve got Gavin Morris back, who made a lot of plays for us.”
Morris enjoyed a highly productive sophomore season on both sides of the ball, starting at linebacker and spelling Green in the backfield at times.
South’s offensive line is anchored by a pair of All-County selections from a year ago in right tackle Ethan Patrick and Bryce Myers, who flashed his versatility at center and left guard in 2019.
Senior Taft Hilton was also a first-team All-County player last year along South’s defensive line, racking up 49 tackles, including two tackles for loss, four sacks, nine QB hurries and forcing three fumbles.
Arnette feels particularly confident in South’s linebacking corps, led by a talented pair of linebackers in Morris and senior Alec Stephens.
Stephens produced 80 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, while Morris chipped in 37 tackles and seven tackles for loss. Morris also tied for the team lead in interceptions, returning one against West Forsyth for a touchdown.
McGlockton also figures to be in the mix at linebacker after playing there the last three games in 2019, tallying 27 tackles and two tackles for a loss, including 14 total tackles against Forsyth Central.
“They were just making fun of me because I didn’t let Devin start playing defense until Week 9 last year,” Arnette said. “Then he played three games and was one of our most productive players on defense. The thing about Devin is, you can’t play certain kids every play. You’d like to, and there are several up here that you’d like to do that with. But it’s a challenge for us as coaches to figure out when we can play them, where we can play them, because if we could, we’d play them every play, everywhere.”
Sept. 18 at Dawson County
Sept. 25 vs. Central Gwinnett
*Oct. 2 vs. Lambert
Oct. 9 at Alcovy
Oct. 16 BYE
*Oct. 23 at West Forsyth
*Oct. 30 vs. Gainesville
*Nov. 6 at Denmark
*Nov. 13 at North Forsyth
*Nov. 20 vs. Forsyth Central
*Denotes Region 6-7A contest
6-5 overall, 3-2 Region 5-7A
W — South 34, Sprayberry 20
L — Blessed Trinity 34, South 31
W — South 32, Etowah 31
W — South 45, South Gwinnett 28
L — Hillgrove 42, South 19
W — South 42, Lambert 17
L — Milton 24, South 7
L — North 43, South 34
W — South 21, Central 14
W — South 14, West 10
L — Norcross 21, South 0
First varsity season: 1991
Playoff appearances: 15 (1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
Region titles: 3 (1997, 2015, 2017)
State titles: 0
At South: 63-46, 11th season
Overall: 108-70-1, 18th season
Julian Bolanos battled injuries his sophomore and junior years but appears healthy for his senior season and will also play a significant role at linebacker.
South’s defensive secondary remains a work in progress, though Arnette is high on senior Zach Fischer: “I think he’s really coming into what he can be for us this year.”
Senior Mitch Thompson was second on the team with 10 pass break-ups last season, but he’ll move to free safety, leaving a vacancy at cornerback, which is already without Cruz and his team-high 16 pass break-ups and two interceptions.
“Corners is where we’ve got to have some guys step up,” Arnette said. “Mitch played corner, but we’re looking to move him to free safety, so the corner position is kind of our wide-open position. We’ll just have to see what happens there.”
The War Eagles were originally scheduled to scrimmage North Gwinnett on Aug. 28, which would have given South a chance to match itself against one of the top teams in the state, but the GHSA moved Aug. 6 to cancel all preseason football scrimmages.
“We always talk to our guys about improvising in every situation in games, and you’ve got to be ready to change on a dime. And boy, we’re getting a lot of that right now,” Arnette said.
“I feel like the kids have reacted well to what we’re doing, I feel like the coaches have and I’m excited about the progress under the rules. Man, I just want to play football.”