Twelve weeks ago, South Forsyth head coach Jeff Arnette gracefully deflected any speculation about the upcoming year. Despite clearly having a talented team as they warmed up in shells in the summer heat, Arnette’s message was simple: “We’ll see what we have.”
The truth is, South’s coaches, players and students knew what they had. They’ve been confidently talking about a region title all year. On Friday night, the War Eagles finished their business in style, dominating crosstown rival Lambert, 31-6, to claim the Region 6-AAAAAA championship in front of a blacked-out, standing-room-only crowd.
In a game with everything on the line—a South loss, combined with a sure-win from West Forsyth would have sent the War Eagles on the road against tough competition for the first week of the playoffs—South played a nearly perfect game. It was a reverse of fortunes after falling to the Longhorns 40-7 last year.
After the game, Lambert head coach Louis Daniel recalled a conversation he had with Arnette before the year.
“I talked to coach Arnette over the offseason, and he talked about how last year just everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. I’m not saying that was what happened with us tonight. They have a great staff, great players, we just did some uncharacteristic things,” Daniel said.
South claimed its first-ever region in Class AAAAAA after moving from AAAA during the 2011 realignment. They join only West as a Forsyth team to win a league title in the highest GHSA classification. Lambert, which opened in 2009, will have to continue to wait its turn.
Davis Shanley wasn’t his best, yet was still a game-changer. He completed 13 of 24 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns—one in the first half on a 24-yard strike to Jaylen Pearson and later on a 75-yard bomb to Ronnie Chambliss on the first play of the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.
Sam Outlaw scored the first touchdown from 8 yards to give South a 10-0 lead, then raced 75 yards in the third quarter to give the War Eagles a 24-0 lead. Outlaw finished with 105 yards on 11 carries. Jalen Camp caught four passes for 66 yards, with all four receptions going for first downs.
Lambert’s ability to control the ball never materialized. South ran 26 plays on its first two possessions against Lambert’s 14. Nine of Lambert’s first 14 plays went for zero or negative yards. Two long runs in the fourth quarter helped sophomore tailback Will Kohlins to 118 yards on 13 carries, but he accounted for all but 66 yards of the team’s total offense. South finished with 407 yards against Lambert’s 184.
Trailing 17-0 to open the third, the Longhorns marched from their own 20 to the redzone before turning the ball over on downs. Outlaw was off to the races just two plays later, and South led 24-0.
Two possessions later Lambert’s Kyle Conner intercepted Shanley’s attempt at a throw-away and raced to the 2-yard line. Will Kohlins took the next carry into the endzone, but the Longhorns failed to convert a 2-point attempt to make it 24-6.
Then came South’s first three-and-out of the game, but a sack from Ryan LaFlamme helped South to force a punt. Chambliss’ long score was just two plays later.
Chambliss had broken open twice earlier in the half, but was missed both times. This ball—a deep play-action fake from Shanley—hit the 5-foot-6, 113-pound Chambliss in full stride. The senior’s unstoppable speed did the rest.
Afterward, Shanley gave a shoutout to Chambliss while being interviewed by local television. He couldn’t resist being in awe.
“This is the biggest game of my life,” Chambliss said. “I’ve never been on T.V. It’s wonderful. This is wonderful.”
“Credit to my players behind me because they have always had my back,” Shanley said. “They are the reason I’m standing here.”
“It was about everybody tonight,” Arnette said, also retreating from cameras and lights. “The school, the pep rally, these football players started saying from day one that this was about a region title. It’s a beautiful win.”
South, a No. 1 seed for the state playoffs, will host Norcross (7-3) next week in the first home playoff game for the War Eagles since they hosted Elbert County in 2001 under head coach Norris Vaughn — a 21-14 win. Norcross, which fell to Collins Hill to qualify as a No. 4 seed, finished with seven wins for the second year in a row after winning state titles in 2012 and 2013.
Lambert will host Collins Hill (5-5) in the first round. This is Lambert’s third straight home playoff game and fifth postseason appearance since opening in 2009.