Senior night doubled as a career night for West Forsyth upperclassmen A.J. Erdely and Jake Wieczorek.
Erdely passed for a career-high 398 yards while Wieczorek shredded South Forsyth’s defense to the tune of a career-best 362 yards of offense on just 16 touches, as the No. 7-ranked Wolverines bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 56-14 victory over the War Eagles on Friday at The Den.
The win leaves the Wolverines (8-1, 5-1 Region 6-AAAAAA) one win away from their first region championship in program history, which they will clinch if they win on the road against Lambert on Friday.
"It feels like our hard work is finally paying off," Erdely said. "We had a rough week [after losing to Chattahoochee], but I feel like we needed that. It was a humbling experience.
"Everyone wanted to put up points [tonight] and we’re excited about that."
West got off to a slow start against South after seeing its undefeated season vanish in a 29-28 loss to Chattahoochee a week earlier. The Wolverines produced only 40 yards of offense and trailed 6-0 after one quarter before Erdely connected with Wieczorek on touchdowns passes of 16, 80 and 71 yards in the second period. The last two came on back-to-back, one-play drives, as Erdely found Wieczorek across the middle of the field both times and extended West’s lead to 21-6.
"I don’t think I’ve ever had a game like this," Wieczorek said. "We had a lot of man and one-on-one coverage and we had a couple of mismatches.
"They tried to put a linebacker on me. We thought they were going to play seven yards off, and we had a scheme for that, but they played five yards off, so it was even easier to do what we wanted."
In the second quarter alone, Erdely (15 of 19, 398 passing yards, 3 TD, INT) went 7 of 7 for 233 passing yards, while Wieczorek hauled in 216 of those yards on five catches. Wieczorek found the end zone four times in the game and finished with 274 receiving yards on six catches to go along with 88 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Both Erdely and Wieczorek posted their gaudy numbers in only three quarters of work.
"He makes me look good," Erdely said of Wieczorek.
"He makes it look easy, but he’s working hard out there. God only knows how many yards he runs in a game.
"... They had a safety five yards away from him, which, we could run that one play where we did that post or either a corner [route] .... all night if we wanted to. He made it look easy."
Isaiah Williams — who put South (3-6, 0-6) ahead 6-0 on a one-yard run in the first quarter — later cut into West’s lead with his second touchdown of the night on a nine-yard run from the wildcat formation. Brett Larkin completed a pass to Sam Walker for the two-point conversion to make the score 21-14 with 1:29 remaining in the first half.
From there, it was all West.
The Wolverines responded with an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped by Hampton McConnell’s nine-yard touchdown run with only 15 seconds before halftime to boost the lead to 28-14
"[West] is a great football team," South head coach Jeff Arnette said. "We played really well in the second half, even though we had some big plays on us. They big-played us to death tonight.
"Hopefully we’ll get it back [together] and we’ll go back to work on Monday. I know these guys will come back to work, and it’s going to be all right, and we’ll play hard next Friday night."
The Wolverines picked up where they left off in the third quarter, as Mohamed Camara finished an 80-yard drive with a six-yard run.
West began its next possession on its own 15-yard line, before Erdely hooked up with Wieczorek for 58 yards and Ty Anderson for 26. Stephen Gallagher finished the series by rumbling into the end zone from one yard out to extend the lead to 42-14.
Wieczorek’s final carry was a sweep for a 48-yard touchdown run to close out the third quarter 49-14.
Without injured quarterback Jantzen Jeffrey, the War Eagles struggled in the passing game and finished 8-for-18 for 77 passing yards and three interceptions.
West’s Hunter Stewart put the exclamation point on the game with a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"I was proud of them for stepping up [after] South [scored] those six points early on," Hepler said. "We responded and took off from there."
West travels to Lambert for the first-ever meeting between the Wolverines and Longhorns, while South hosts North Forsyth in the final week of the regular season next Friday night.
"We’ve never had that opportunity here at West [to win the region], so we’ll see how the kids respond," Hepler said. "It’s another learning situation and a fairly young program.
"I know Lambert is real well-coached and [has] good, hard-nosed kids. They’ll be ready to play."