Forget about the scoreboard — nothing about West Forsyth’s 21-0 victory over hosting Forsyth Central came easily.
West entered the game missing both starting running back Daba Fofana and offensive lineman Dylan Fairchild — both injured during last week's win against South Forsyth.
Filling in for Fofana, sophomore William Orris lined up with just over 4 minutes remaining and a chance for his team to add to a 14-0 lead.
Aside from a lone miscue on West’s opening drive — a 74-yard touchdown pass from Keegan Stover to T.J. Jennings, the Central defense had settled in and largely held the Wolverine attack in check.
On four different occasions, promising West drives stalled well into Central territory, including a first-and-goal situation from the 1-yard line that resulted in a missed field goal attempt early in the second quarter.
On a third-and-long with 4:30 left to play, Stover took the snap, dropped back and found himself faced once again with the Central pass rush — over whose heads he tossed a perfectly scripted screen pass that Orris took the 38 yards to the end zone and cemented a huge, second straight region win for the Wolverines.
“I thought William Orris came in a did a super job at running back tonight,” West head coach Dave Svehla said. “That’s the way this fall is going for a lot of teams. You’re going to probably miss guys from week to week, and you’ve got to get guys ready and you’ve got to prepare them and they need to step up.”
Orris led the West rushing attack with 114 yards while adding 42 receiving yards on a pair of catches, including his fourth-quarter touchdown.
“I thought we played well,” Orris said. “I could always do better, but our offense did well without some of our starters, and we had a good game.”
Stover finished his night completing 12 of 21 passes for 220 yards with two touchdown passes — both to Jennings, who led West's receivers with 113 yards on four catches.
Jennings’ second touchdown came in the final seconds of the first half.
On a second-and-goal from the 9-yard line with under 8 seconds to play, Stover fed his favorite target of the night a perfectly thrown jump-ball in the corner of the end zone that Jennings leapt for and grabbed just over the head of Central defender Peyton Strecko, giving West a two-score lead at the half.
“I give them all the credit in the world,” Central head coach Frank Hepler said. “I think we started too slow and just never got things rolling. We’re better than what we played, but you’ve got to come prepared to play every week, and West did.”
Central’s slow start on offense saw them enter halftime with just 29 total yards while having yet to complete a single pass — due largely to an aggressive, blitz-heavy defensive performance by the Wolverines, and a pass rush that allowed Central quarterback Bronson Landreth limited chances at finding open receivers.
“I thought the defense was fantastic tonight,” Svehla said. “That’s a complex scheme and they (Central) cause issues for people and you have to be disciplined. I thought our kids were really disciplined defensively. They did a great job against the run, and then on passing situations, they pinned their ears back and really got after the quarterback.”
The Central offense began finding occasional glimpses of daylight in the second half.
With Landreth sidelined for the final two quarters with an injury, backup Graham Long completed 5 of 13 passes for 86 yards, 68 of them coming on four catches by tight end Devin Hill, as the Bulldogs began gradually shifting the field-position battle that had seen them pinned inside their own territory for the entirety of the first half.
Ultimately, though, each of Central’s final drives ended short of the scoreboard. The Bulldogs failed to convert on a pair of second-half fourth downs — one of them on a fake punt in the third that fell one yard short of a first down, and the other on a fourth-and-17 shot at the end zone late in the fourth quarter that resulted in West junior Bryce Allen batting away any final hope of a Central comeback.
Central finished the night with 159 yards of total offense to West’s 412, with West freshman Ryder Stewart adding 81 rushing yards of his own on six carries and junior Jaycen Harris tallying 49 receiving yards on three grabs.
“We just didn’t get the first downs to keep the chains moving when we needed to tonight,” Hepler said. “It’s something we’ve got to do. I’ve got to do a better job coaching and we’ve got to get back at it next week, because now every week’s a playoff game and we’ve got our backs against the wall.”