By McClain Baxley
For the Forsyth County News
West Forsyth’s defense allowed just 74 first-half yards, scored 10 points and set the tone for the Wolverines’ 39-14 victory against Meadowcreek in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs. West will host North Gwinnett next Friday.
On the Mustangs’ first possession, they gained just 3 yards before running a fake punt that was snuffed out from the get-go. The ensuing Wolverine drive, sophomore quarterback Keegan Stover had three completions for 53 yards and a touchdown to T.J. Jennings to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The next two drives for the visitors ended in snaps over the punter’s head, the second resulting in a West safety, putting the Wolverines up 9-0. West’s offense couldn’t get into any sort of rhythm, gifting the ball back to the Mustangs on the their own 17.
With nowhere to turn, and Kyle Peterson and Malachi Hutchinson breathing down his neck, Meadowcreek quarterback Malachi Watkins threw a shuffle pass to Micah James in the end zone. Another safety.
Led by Ryder Stewart on the ground, West used the momentum on the next drive and really put the visitors away with a five-play, 39-yard drive that ended with Stover hitting Cooper Johnson for a 4-yard score to take an 18-0 lead with 9 minutes until halftime.
“That’s what we love to get from our defense, obviously,” West head coach Dave Svehla said. “There were some things that we needed to do better on that side of the ball, competing on individual plays, making sure we finish tackles, making sure we go up and get the ball when they highpoint the ball.”
That competition in the passing game came into effect on the final play of the first half.
Down 32-0, Watkins and the Mustangs offense weren’t going to go down without a fight. Watkins worked the passing game and was helped by a West personal foul. Watkins launched a perfectly thrown ball to Tyler Williams for a 37-yard score to break up the shutout.
The finishing tackles came into effect on the first play of the second half.
The Wolverines kicked off to the visitors and James weaved his way down the left sideline all the way to the end zone to put some pressure on the WFHS offense.
A holding call and a dropped pass forced the Wolverines to punt.
On first-and-10 from his own 20, Latreveone Gaither hit a hole and ran all the way down the field. West’s Bryce Allen made the tackle at the one to save a touchdown and keep it a three-score game.
Meadowcreek ran the ball three times and lost 3 yards as the Wolverines’ defense was potent as ever.
After the turnover on downs, several Mustang players and coaches began yelling at the referees and Wolverines. No penalties were given, but tempers were high.
“We talk about it on our sideline as it being a selfish thing,” Svehla said. “If talking to a guy and getting a flag is more important than helping your team, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. I thought our kids did a pretty good job of maintaining their composure tonight.”
The rest of the third was an exchange of punts.
Taking over on the Meadowcreek 31, Stewart ran the ball three times and ended the drive with a 7-yard score, his second of the night.
The visitors responded with a 14-play drive that resulted in a turnover on downs. A few runs from William Orris later and the Wolverines were celebrating another playoff win.
“I’m proud of them for maintaining, for figuring out a way to get a good lead in the first half because we were lethargic at times tonight,” Svehla said. “Because we had the lead, we got away with it, but that’s not going to happen when we move through the playoffs. We’ll never apologize for winning, and I’m excited to be playing another game at home.”
The victory is West’s eighth win of the year and they’ve won six games straight. The West defense has now held its opponent to 21 points or fewer in seven games this season.
And next week is another opportunity to showcase to get revenge over a team that’s bested them recently — North Gwinnett. The Bulldogs defeated the Wolverines, 41-7, in a second-round game in 2018.
"They’re a really good program, but we’re going to prepare the same way we prepare for everybody else,” Svehla said. “We’re going to get in the film room and create a game plan to take advantage of the things we do well. Our kids are excited to keep playing.”
MHS 0 7 7 0
WFHS 11 21 0 7
First Downs 22 23
Total Yards 178 293
Rushes-Yards 32-119 33-171
Passing 59 122
Comp-Att-Int 8-20-1 10-16-0
Turnovers 1 1
Penalties-Yds. 15-100 7-64
RUSHING: MHS Gaither 11-118. WFHS Stewart 18-103-1.
PASSING: MHS Watkins 8-20-59-1-1. WFHS Stover 9-15-84-2-0
RECEIVING: MHS Williams 2-37-1. WFHS Stewart 2-38-1, Jennings 2-41-1