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Football: Special-teams miscues haunt West Forsyth in loss to Marietta
Peyton Streko 08-26-22
West Forsyth senior Peyton Streko (22) dives into the end zone for one of his two touchdowns against Marietta Friday at home. (Photo by Elizabeth Malcott)

Coming off a big 21-7 win over a preseason Top-20 ranked Archer team during last week's Corky Kell Classic, the players and staff at West Forsyth had to be feeling pretty good through one game.

Fast forward to Friday night, the Wolverines welcomed in a Marietta team that took it on the chin versus nationally ranked Grayson in that same set of games, so both teams had interesting motivations coming in.

The Blue Devils used an 82-yard kickoff return touchdown and a huge West fumble on a fourth-quarter kickoff return, posting 14 points off those two plays and hanging on for a 24-17 road victory.

"Every play matters," West head coach Dave Svehla said. "We turned the ball over twice, and they got 10 points off of that; and we gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown. That's 17 of their 24 points, but that's our fault. We've got to be better in those areas."

It looked for a bit early in the second half that the Wolverines were going to be able to ride the stout offensive line play and tremendous running of senior Peyton Streko (29 carries for 153 yards, 2 TDs) to grind down the opposition. That offensive philosophy paired nicely with a defense that was coming up with some big plays to stymie Marietta in key moments.

But what was a defensive struggle through the opening quarter and just a 10-7 Blue Devil advantage at the half got more interesting in the second 24 minutes.

After Marietta went three and out to open the third stanza, West (1-1) went right down the field, riding the back of Streko. The senior toted it seven times on the drive and put them in position for a 20-yard Niko Nunez field goal to tie it at 10-apiece with just under 5 minutes to go in the third.

The West defense then got Marietta (1-1) off the field again. Future Air Force cadet Streko tallied 56 yards on the subsequent drive that leaked into the fourth quarter, capping it with his second TD jaunt of the game from 18 yards out. This score came on a pinball run that saw him get the last 13 yards bouncing off Marietta defenders on his way in.

A successful PAT made it 17-10, and things appeared pointed in a positive direction for the home team, but the Blue Devils responded, taking the ball 77 yards in 10 plays with Russell Bey (23 rushing yards on the drive) punching it in from 3 yards out. A monster momentum play for the Blue Devils on the drive came when quarterback Chase McCravy (9 for 17, 86 yards passing) hit Bobby Butler on a third-and-18 from their own 26 for 19 yards to keep things humming.

Deadlocked at 17-17 after the PAT, what happened next was monstrous as well, as West fumbled the ensuing kickoff with Anthony Kruah of Marietta pouncing on it at the West 10-yard line. Bey took it in on the very next play for his second TD run of the game, putting a stunned Wolverines team and crowd suddenly in a 24-17 hole with 8:13 left in the final quarter.

West had a three-and-out before getting it back one last time with 4:56 left, but a gallant 10-play drive into Marietta territory was sidetracked by a sack from Javien West, which put the home team behind the chains, and then polished off by another sack on fourth-and-16 by Demarion West to finish off the game.

"Marietta's a good football team; they were going to win some of the things that happened tonight," Svehla said, referring to those few momentum-changing plays that went against West. "Unfortunately, the losses we had on particular plays were plays that turned the game."