Whether West Forsyth needed a big play on offense, defense or special teams, the Wolverines were always able to get it.
Tanner Bridges provided the final one when he recovered a Flowery Branch onside kick with 3:16 remaining Friday night, allowing the No. 10-ranked Wolverines to hold on for a 21-14 victory over the Falcons at The Den.
"I’m really proud of the defense tonight," West head coach Frank Hepler said as students poured onto the field to celebrate. "Flowery Branch has some real good athletes that can score at any time, and to only give up 14 [points] to them is pretty impressive."
Junior quarterback A.J. Erdely was the star of West’s offense, completing 15 of 21 passes for 179 yards, adding 81 rushing yards and accounting for all three West touchdowns.
The Wolverines (2-0) came out firing on all cylinders as Erdely capped off an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a 47-yard scamper to the end zone for the game’s first score. On West’s second drive, Erdely found Jake Wieczorek for a 28-yard strike to the Falcons’ 1 yard line. Erdely then punched the ball in on a quarterback sneak to double the lead to 14-0.
Erdely completed his first 12 passes of the night.
"We were just clicking," Erdely said. "The offensive line did great all night picking up the blitzes on every play. Wide receivers made amazing catches and we did really great all the way around."
The Wolverines harassed Falcons quarterback Jackson McDonald, who made a few big plays but was mostly held in check, completing 9 of 15 passes for 100 yards and rushing for another 41 yards. West sophommore defensive end Alec Coburn sacked McDonald twice.
"I was only focused on getting past the linemen," Coburn said. "He’s a fast quarterback, so I had to wrap him up and not give up on the play."
Flowery Branch (0-2) got on the board in the second quarter with a two-yard run up the middle on fourth down from sophomore quarterback Darius Curry.
West tried to score again, as Erdely connected with Wieczorek for a 10-yard pass with 3:03 left before the half, but Wieczorek injured his back on the play and was forced to leave the game. He finished with 91 receiving yards on seven catches.
West attempted a 47-yard field goal with 23 seconds left but it fell short, and the Wolverines remained ahead 14-7 at halftime.
The third quarter was all West.
On fourth-and-two with the ball on the Flowery Branch 2-yard line, Erdely rolled out of the pocket and nailed senior tight end Ty Anderson in the back of the end zone to cap a 14-play, 69-yard scoring drive that chewed up more than six minutes of clock and extended West’s lead to 21-7.
"It’s all part of execution," Hepler said. "Calling those plays is something we work on in practice to give them that same intensity. Everything we’re doing right now is trying to get better for region play."
McDonald found his stride in the fourth quarter with a 47-yard pass to senior receiver Jamaad Stephens. Stephens’ reception led to a 1-yard touchdown run up the middle by Justin Curry, who did his part for the Falcons with 203 yards on 21 carries.
But Bridges recovered the ensuing onside kick to deny Curry another chance to score.
"We made some improvements, but we have to get better in a lot of areas," Flowery Branch first-year head coach Chris Griffin said. "We made mistakes and we have to figure out how to fix those mistakes."
West will host Starr’s Mill Friday night, while Flowery Branch will travel to Cedar Shoals.