By Matt Green
For the Forsyth County News
Lambert led West Forsyth for about 42 minutes in the teams’ Region 5-7A game Friday at The Horn, but when the clock struck triple zeroes, it was West that prevailed in a 28-24 thriller.
“It was one of those things where we had some of our kids just leave their guts on the field,” West head coach Shawn Cahill said. “I’m proud of ‘em. We told them it was gonna take 48 minutes and that’s what it takes. This time of the year, every game’s a playoff game and you've got to just fight, and they did that. I’m proud as heck of ‘em.”
It may not have been John Elway-esque, but the Wolverines’ drive at the end of the game will be remembered for a long time. With 2:39 remaining in the game, West (6-2, 2-1 Region 5 7-A) had the ball on its own 8-yard line, trailing the Longhorns (2-6, 0-3) 24-21.
Zach Burns led the Wolverines on a 9-play, 92-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by Ben Bresnahan’s 1-yard touchdown run with 51 seconds remaining in the game. On that final drive, Burns went 5-for-7 for 81 yards through the air and had one rush for 10 yards on the ground.
“We realized because Ben (Bresnahan) is such a great athlete," Burns said. "I’d take him over anybody. We knew that they were kinda cherry-picking with their coverage, trying to double-team him, and so they left some guys open, thinking that we wouldn’t go to ‘em ... So that last drive, we knew they were leaving the middle open, bringing a lot of pressure, and (Garrett) Woodall did a great job just finding the middle.”
Despite Burns’ heroics, Lambert had one last shot to win it at the end. With three seconds remaining, the Longhorns were at West’s 37-yard line and had one final heave to the end zone. Lambert’s Peyton Rich was hit as he threw and the pass fell incomplete, but a defensive holding allowed the Longhorns to have one untimed down from the 27-yard line. On the final play, Rich threw it up in the middle of the end zone, but West’s Cade Vela knocked it down and preserved the victory.
“I think this shows that we’re very senior-driven,” Burns said. “A lot of those guys stepped up late in the game. It shows you that we aren’t going to quit easy, and we’ll be there for four quarters, whether you like it or not.”
Lost in Lambert’s heartbreaking defeat was the individual performance of Marcus Chatelain. He was a workhorse for the Longhorns’ offense, carrying the ball 31 times for 229 yards and three touchdowns.
“Marcus Chatelain, he played as hard as anyone out here tonight,” Lambert head coach Louis Daniel said. “I hate it for those kids. I wanted a chance to play (in the state playoffs), and that doesn’t look great right now. But this team’s tough. They played a good game tonight.”
Lambert took a 14-7 lead into the half, which was their first halftime lead since Cherokee in the third week of the season. In the third quarter, Chatelain broke a 45-yard touchdown run that put the Longhorns up 21-7. But the ensuing drive was the game-changer.
Because of a block in the back on the kickoff return, West started the drive on its own five-yard line. A couple of defensive penalties allowed them to get out from the shadow of their own goal post. A few plays later, Burns hit Cade Vela on a screen pass that the running back took 69 yards to the house, cutting Lambert’s lead to 21-14 and igniting a fire under the Wolverines’ sideline.
Burns spread the ball out to several different receivers on his way to 349 passing yards and three touchdowns on 20-of-33 passing. Vela finished the game with five receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown, while Bresnahan had seven receptions for 91 yards, and Bryce Jones caught three passes for 49 yards and two touchdowns.
This was West’s first win over Lambert since 2011, and even with this being Cahill’s first year at West, that feat wasn’t lost on him.
“I just really don’t like Lambert,” Cahill said. “Even coming from Lanier, so I’m really happy about it. I love Louis [Daniel]. I think Louis is a really nice guy, but I just never really liked Lambert, so it feels pretty good.”