By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
With under a minute left in the first half of West Forsyth’s homecoming matchup with Lambert on Friday night, Lambert quarterback Peyton Rich lined up under center on the Wolverine 13, having completed five previous passes and sitting in position to pull the Longhorns within a single score after the West-dominated first half.
But rather than any intended receiver, Rich dropped back and found himself facing a tidal wave of Wolverine pass rushers, one of them being Stephon Bland, whose hit jarred the ball lose for teammate Mikhari Sibblis, who picked it up and ran. The 68-yard scoop-and-score gave West a commanding lead that they would not surrender by the end of the 31-16 win.
“We had both linebackers coming off the outside ledge,” Sibblis said on his game-changing score. “(Stephon Bland) hit him, I saw it, scooped it and had Abe and Steph in front of me.”
Bland would also score a pair of his own touchdowns, one of them an 88-yard run in the third quarter that could be a West Forsyth record.
“We knew we had to get this one,” West head coach Shawn Cahill said of the win.
Both teams entered the evening desperately needing a win, with the Longhorns still seeking their first region victory and the Wolverines fighting for a playoff opportunity in what still is a tight division behind Milton.
“We had a good first half, and then I think we kind of lost our focus a little bit in the second,” Cahill said, referring to a second half, in which his squad was outscored 13-7 while also committing an alarming number of penalties. “We made enough plays to win and hold on, but we’ve got to fix that and that’s on us.”
Two of the more egregious West penalties leading to Lambert second-half points both occurred on a kickoff that Lambert’s Nathan Smith nearly returned for touchdown before being tackled out of bounds by kicker Parker Hannon. Seconds later, a dead-ball personal foul on the Wolverines gave Lambert the ball on the West 11-yard line and quickly resulted in a touchdown grab by Lambert’s Blake Nichols on a beautiful throw by Rich.
The Longhorns would score again just over two minutes later on a 41-yard run by Jake Rising, pulling within two scores and once again putting West’s blowout at risk. West would hold on in the final minutes, though, thanks to a couple of key stops and some timely connections between quarterback Drew Southern and Abraham Camara, who finished with an 204 yards on eight catches with a touchdown.
“Abe’s a great athlete, and we want to give him the ball as much as we can,” Cahill said. “Those two are comfortable together, I think. Drew trusts Abe, so he’s not afraid to just throw it up and let him go get the football.”
Southern was plenty efficient in his own right, completing 18 of his 28 passes to five different receivers for 266 yards and a touchdown.
“I felt good,” Southern said. “I gave the ball to my playmakers and let them do the rest.”
In addition to his 45-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, Camara had receptions of 15, 35, and 68 yards, the latter of which Southern placed in a perfect window in coverage, leading his receiver and giving Camara the chance to drag a defender for an additional 15 yards after the catch.
“Drew just put it there,” Camara said. “I couldn’t ask for much – he just put it on the spot.”
West (3-5, 2-1 Region 5-7A) will take on North Forsyth next week for a shot at second place and a potential playoff appearance. Lambert fell to 3-5, 0-3 with the loss.