It couldn’t get any worse, or so it seemed.
West Forsyth’s football team wasn’t even at the halfway point of its season-opening contest against Camden County on Friday night, but the Wolverines were already down by 34 points. Midway through the second quarter, backup quarterback Drew Southern came in to relieve starter Blake Whitfield, who had fumbled three times.
But that change didn’t slow the run of mistakes West continued to make. Just two plays into Southern’s first drive, a snap went over his head and the Wildcats recovered in West’s red zone. Southern and the teammates around him that tried to grab the loose ball stood on their knees as they slowly got back up, as if in awe.
“I don't think our kids quit. I just think there was some frustration there in the first half, like things just went wrong and they just waited for something else to go wrong,” West Forsyth head coach Shawn Cahill said. “When you have a young team, that's what's going to happen. If you have one or two things go wrong, it's going to waterfall on you.”
Camden immediately cashed in after the bad snap, and ultimately, the turnovers consigned the Wolverines to a lopsided 47-6 loss to open their 2019 season.
Camden and West (0-1) played a much closer game in last year’s opener, and while the Wolverines expected some growing pains with their number of young players, Friday’s result was unexpected all around.
“Their coach came up to me and said, ‘I did not see that coming,’” Cahill said. “Neither did I, but with young kids and things going wrong, that happens. We'll watch some film with them, we'll point some things out and hopefully, if they make mistakes again next week against another very good football team, it's not the same mistake they made tonight.”
The Wildcats received the ball first and immediately drove down the field, and with 7:09 left in the first quarter, Camden quarterback Logan Watson threw up a floater to receiver Ryan Dunlap for a 25-yard touchdown.
Whitfield, making his first appearance in a regular season game since his season-ending injury last year, utilized his legs well throughout the game, making some nice reads on option plays. But after he rushed into Camden’s red zone during West’s first drive, he fumbled, and Camden returned it for a 70-yard score to make it 14-0 with 3:39 left in the first quarter. Another fumble on a Whitfield run in the second ultimately resulted in another Camden trip to the end zone.
“He's a good athlete,” Cahill said. “He's a good runner -- he did that last year and he did it again tonight. He was frustrated after a while and you could tell. There are just some things in game one that you're not used to, especially as a quarterback (that) hasn't played for a while. When you play a good football team like Camden that's got speed, they caught up to him from behind a couple of times and just knocked the ball out.”
While West couldn’t hold on to the ball, the Wildcats were scoring on almost every single drive. Camden held a 41-0 lead at halftime, and lost the shutout on a 76-yard Daba Fofana touchdown run with 5:39 left in the third.
Cahill still has confidence in Whitfield and the rest of his seniors, and made it a point to his team that Friday’s loss is just a small part of the long season ahead. But for things to turn around, the Wolverines know they’ll have to vastly cut down the mistakes against their tough non-region schedule.
“If we can eliminate the turnovers, we can be a better team next week,” Cahill said. “If we go in next week and turn it over six times, (Hewitt-Trussville) will do the same thing to us. They're almost the same team as this.”