It might have been Game 3, but for more than one reason West Forsyth’s tilt with Hillgrove felt like the first real game of the season.
After a long bye week following a loss to Pace Academy in a game called at halftime, West unleashed its frustrations on the Hawks Friday night with an impressive 56-35 victory in front of a packed homecoming crowd.
Running back Grant Torgerson’s wait felt even longer—he had been sidelined for the previous two games of the season with mono. The senior bounced back with a five touchdown performance on the ground, while he also forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and had plenty of big hits.
“I had some major making up to do after missing those first two games,” Torgerson said. “It was a bad feeling missing that much time. Tonight, I think just getting everyone back healthy—Jackson Brantley was out, so was Thomas [Arundale], we just got our energy back and it showed.”
Arundale stood out for West as well, recovering a fumble forced by Torgerson and returning it 76 yards to the end zone to give West a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. He also caught three passes for 98 yards, including a 52-yard score where he pushed off a defender more than once on the way to the end zone.
Both players thought the big performances were a result of unleashing frustration.
“This was an awesome win for us after a devastating loss against Pace,” Arundale said. “We needed this win for sure.”
“I think if anything the rained out game was good for us, because it put a chip on our shoulder,” Torgerson said.
The game probably felt like déjà vu for Hillgrove head coach Phil Ironside, who coached the Hawks in a 40-28 loss to West in the second round of the playoffs in 2011. Back then West head coach Adam Clack was the offensive coordinator.
Clack reminisced after Friday’s win.
“We prepared like crazy,” Clack said. “We have a lot of really high expectations for this football team. We have not played our best football yet, and this week we felt really good about our game plan. I think this win can propel us forward.”
The score was even, 28-28, through the final three quarters of play as Hillgrove used its athleticism to stay in contention despite numerous mistakes. The Hawks looked prepared for a comeback coming out of the half when Lance Wise returned the kickoff 97 yards to make the score 42-28. Then Hillgrove got the ball back and moved to midfield. That’s where Cade Vela jumped in front of a screen pass for an interception, and Torgerson punched it in from 7 yards out with just under five minutes in the third quarter to make it 49-28.
West quarterback Kiernen Hamtilon completed 14 of 25 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns. Ben Bresnahan (four catches, 69 yards), Zach Burns (four catches, 62 yards) and Bryce Jones (two catches, 42 yards) all helped out in the passing game.
Torgerson finished with 63 yards on nine carries, while Clay Crocker added 41 yards on 15 attempts.
Overall, Hillgrove managed to outgain West 557-419, but turnovers proved costly. The Hawks lost three fumbles, all in the first half, that helped West to a 28-7 lead at the end of the first and a 42-28 lead at halftime.
Hillgrove quarterback Hunter Arters had a busy but prolific night, completing 30 of 48 passes for 370 yards and three scores. An 18-yard pass to Jalen Jackson made the score 28-14 in the second, while an 80-yard pass to Chig Okonkwo made it 35-21 with just over a minute left in the first half.