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Football: West demolishes Gainesville for second straight win
Ryder Stewart
West Forsyth sophomore Ryder Stewart carries the ball Friday during the Wolverines' 40-7 win against Gainesville. - photo by Noah Rubin

West Forsyth has been an offensive juggernaut all season.

The Wolverines have averaged 33.3 points per game in region play, including their 40-point performance Friday during a 40-7 win against Gainesville.

But it wasn’t the offense that stood out Friday. West’s defense dominated the entire night, allowing only one touchdown late in the game when they were up 40-0. They forced three turnovers and got a safety on a bad snap by the Red Elephants.

Head coach Dave Svhela credited the work the team put in during practice this week.

“I just thought our defense was aggressive, and I thought that they went after the ball when they had a chance,” Svhela said. “That is absolutely something that we have put a focus on in practice. I think some of our back-end guys have been super aware of being where they’re supposed to be. Coach [Robert] Tjong really got them focused this week on getting where they’re supposed to be and finishing plays. I think that made a difference tonight. We gave it back to them a couple times, and we want to clean that up, but those turnovers are always good.”

Bryce Allen and William Orris each recovered fumbles for West, and Ryder Stewart and Brody Sanderson each intercepted a pass. 

Stewart’s was on the third play of the game, while Sanderson’s was early in the fourth quarter and helped the Wolverines really put the game away. The defensive line was dominant, holding Gainesville to only 39 rushing yards.

Still playing without star running back Peyton Streko, West seems to have figured out how to be successful in other ways to make up for the loss.

“That’s the most complete game we’ve played this season from start to finish,” Svhela said. “I was very proud of our kids on both sides of the ball. Special teams were good. That’s who we can be. It’s not who we’ve necessarily been consistently. That’s been a little bit of the problem this year. I thought the kids came out with great energy, and we did a lot of good things tonight.”

Offensively, quarterback Keegan Stover threw for 280 yards and threw five touchdown passes for the second week in a row. Two of those went to Lincoln Nelson, and Oscar Delp, Ryder Stewart, and Cooper Johnson each had one. Stover also proved himself to be a dual-threat quarterback, finishing with a team-high 75 rushing yards on only nine carries.

“I thought Keegan was really sharp tonight,” Svhela said. “I thought the thing that he did best was keep plays alive. There were times where I thought he was done, and he kept the play alive and then I thought he made pretty good decisions after that. Sometimes when a quarterback runs around for awhile, they’re so excited about keeping the play alive that they wanna make this amazing play. I thought he did a good job of making decisions and getting the ball to open guys.”

Delp finished with a team-high seven catches for 76 yards. Stewart had 48 rushing yards and 24 receiving yards. Stover completed passes to seven different receivers.

With the win, West moves to 2-2 in region play. Currently, that’s good for fifth in the region, since North owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. But that has an opportunity to change next week.

“Lambert is gonna be a heck of a battle next week,” Svhela said. “They’ve got a really good football team. This is going to be a tremendous challenge for us. We’re going to enjoy tonight, but we know that starting tomorrow all of our focus is gonna be on Lambert.”

West has two tough games to finish the season with Lambert and Denmark, which is undefeated in region play. A win over Lambert, which is 3-2 in region play, will give West an important tiebreaker over a team that they’ll be battling with for a spot in the state playoffs. Despite the slow start to the region schedule, West still controls their own postseason destiny.