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2019 ALL-COUNTY FOOTBALL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Eli Orr, West Forsyth
Eli Orr
West Forsyth senior linebacker Eli Orr was the county's top tackler in 2019 and finished with 14 tackles for loss. - photo by Ben Hendren

Eli Orr came into the season wanting to make more plays behind the line of scrimmage.

Mission accomplished.

West Forsyth’s senior linebacker finished with a team-high 118 tackles but also led the Wolverines with 14 tackles for loss, up from just one last season.

“I think I worked in the offseason on playing a little bit quicker – more speed, getting stronger, getting faster and playing even more downhill than last year,” Orr said. “Trying to have some tackles for loss and have some bigger splash plays.”

Orr finished with double-digit tackles in seven of the team’s 10 games, making a season-high 17 stops during West’s 47-19 loss to Hewitt-Trussville (Ala.).

The Wolverines raced out to a 13-0 lead in that game but were ultimately outscored 47-6 in the final three quarters.

Orr remembers thinking about that game on Nov. 1 before his Wolverines scored 22 unanswered points to stun North Forsyth, a 22-21 win that proved to be West’s most impressive win of the season.

“We were more calm down 21 against North than we were up (13) against (Hewitt-Trussville),” Orr said. “We were such a young team, and we get up against (Hewitt-Trussville) and everyone was like, ‘What do we do now?’ Against North, we were down 21 and heading into the locker room completely calm. We knew exactly what to do.”

As a team, West racked up 78 tackles for loss, led by Orr, senior Jack Hughes (11) and junior Hudson Posey (10).

Orr credits defensive coordinator Bill Ballard with allowing the Wolverines’ defense to make that many stops behind the line.

“He puts us in the right spots, and every day in practice it was just everyone to the ball, every single play, or we were going to pay for it,” Orr said. “That kind of just burned into our brain. When you get everyone flying around like that, it’s a lot of fun.”

“His defense is the most fun defense I’ve ever played in. Pre-snap, you can look the same but give them 100 different looks. You can do so many little changes out of it, and it’s so much fun.”

On top of leading the team in tackles, Orr forced two fumbles, recovered one fumble and picked off a pass.

Orr also played offense sporadically for the Wolverines, seeing time at fullback and tight end.

“(West Forsyth head coach Shawn Cahill) just threw me in in the middle of the game,” Orr said. “He was pissed off that we were losing and he just put me in as a lead blocker and I was like, ‘Where do I go?’ and he goes, ‘Just hit someone.’”

Orr’s limited offensive role as a lead blocker allowed him to sneak into the secondary and snag a 7-yard TD catch during a 33-7 win against Lambert.

Orr, a senior, has played his last snap for West, as have a trio of talented linebackers in Orr, Hughes and senior Luke Nordin.

But Orr doesn’t see West falling off anytime soon.

“It definitely looks good … We didn’t have one senior DB,” Orr said. “We had Dalton (Tjong), Kobe (Haynes), Bryce (Allen), Oscar (Delp) and we’ve got a lot of good young D-linemen. The defense is definitely going to be in great shape. Everybody knows Ballard’s system now – this is his third year now. The defense will be just fine.”

As for Orr, his recruitment is still open. He picked up an offer from Shorter University following the season, and he’s waiting patiently for more offers to roll in.

“I don’t know where exactly I’m going to play yet, but I want to play somewhere,” Orr said. “I’m just waiting for my opportunity.”