By Taylor Gantt
For the Forsyth County News
DULUTH – In a game filled with intensity, drama and unpredictability, the South Forsyth War Eagles edged out the Northview Titans 21-17 on the road on Friday.
The season opener proved to be classic affair, complete with a fourth quarter, game-winning drive engineered by the South offense. Despite trailing for a majority of the game, the War Eagles persevered through the difficult stretches and didn’t allow themselves to become disheartened by the tough start.
It was in the fourth quarter where South rose to the occasion. After fumbling away the ball inside the Northview 20 yard line, the War Eagles (1-0, 0-0 Region 6-AAAAAA) defense capitalized on a bad snap and retook the football three yards away from the goal line. Tyler Laflamme punched in the touchdown and gave new life to South only trailing 17-14.
After South sacked Northview quarterback D.J. Pearson, the War Eagles had the ball for one last drive with 1:25 left in the game.
The offense overcame its earlier struggles and drove into Northview territory, led by their two workhorse running backs, Laflamme and Isaiah Williams. After steadily chipping away at the Northview defense, South broke through at the most opportune time as Laflamme slammed home his second short-yardage touchdown of the night with 46.7 seconds left to cement a 21-17 lead.
"We came out in the second half ready to play and we ran it down their throats," Laflamme said. "Great blocking, the (offensive) line, and the fullback, couldn’t have done it without them."
Northview’s last offensive play was a desperate heave downfield, which was intercepted by defensive captain Brett Larkin, sealing the win.
"We didn’t play real well, that’s the bottom line," South coach Jeff Arnette said. "We had a lot of mistakes, a lot of penalties, but the heart they showed in the last 10 minutes of the game… I’m so proud of how they finished… they never quit."
Northview looked strong in defeat, boasting a core of playmakers, led by Pearson. He completed 21-of-30 passes for 313 yards but was plagued by two immensely costly turnovers.
Matt Biandich and Nathan Phillips emerged as the premier offensive threats for Northview. Biandich hauled in eight catches for 108 yards while also serving as the primary kickoff specialist. Phillips was a threat both on the ground (seven rushes, 108 yards, two TDs) and as a receiver (seven catches, 61 yards).
Arnette praised his opponents for the effort they put forth.
"That’s one of the most improved teams from one year to the next in my 23 years of coaching that I’ve seen," Arnette said. "Hats off to that bunch."
South jumped out to an early first quarter lead when Matthew White connected with Drew Witlas on a short slant that saw him break from the Northview defense and scurry 56 yards for the score.
From that point forward, a myriad of South turnovers allowed Northview to seize the momentum and the lead. An interception thrown in the Northview end zone and a fumbled snap inside their own 20 yard line helped the Titans score 17 unanswered points.
Despite the win, Arnette said the team still has refining to do.
"Anytime you win, you’re inspired," he said. "A win is all that matters at this point, but we do have a long way to go. We got a lot of mistakes that we have to fix, but that’s what practice is for and we’ll start on Monday."