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Football: West stays in hunt for region title with win over North
West Forsyth quarterback Zach Burns stretches for a first down against North Forsyth on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.

The chant from West Forsyth's camo-clad student section started in the fourth quarter, with the Wolverines' 35-16 win at North Forsyth well in hand. 

"We want South. We want South."

West was scheduled to face the War Eagles next Friday, regardless of what happened against the Raiders. But with the win, the Wolverines have much more to potentially gain in their regular season finale: A region title. 

"We're feeling pretty confident," West senior safety/tailback Cade Vela said. "Starting out with a loss in region play sort of put our backs up against the wall, but now that we're on a three-game winning streak, we're pretty confident going into this."

The Wolverines are now 3-1 in Region 5-7A, and South Forsyth is 4-0 after the War Eagles' easy win over Forsyth Central on Friday. Milton is also 3-1 after beating Lambert on Friday, and if all three teams were to end the region schedule with one loss, the champion would be decided by a tiebreaker based on score differential. West could be the No. 1 seed, but it could also end up as the No. 3 seed and have to play its first-round playoff game on the road.

The fact that the Wolverines are in this position, though, is a significant accomplishment in itself. They began the region schedule with a 17-13 loss to Milton, a close, emotional game where Eagles head coach Adam Clack returned to face the team he'd been head coach of the past three years.

"We said, 'Look, you were two or three inches away from potentially winning the game ... We have a lot to play for here,'" Cahill said. "They kind of put it aside by Wednesday."

Since then, West has established a solid, creative system, one with a flexible, unpredictable run game, a hard-hitting secondary and one of the county's best offensive talents in tight end Ben Bresnahan. The Wolverines beat Forsyth Central a week after falling to Milton, came back to beat Lambert a week after that, and put in their strongest statement of the region slate against the Raiders. 

West Forsyth linebacker Ryan Wnek, left, knocks North Forsyth running back Jonathan Perez into the air Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.
The Wolverines (7-2, 3-1 Region 5-7A) got more than half of their offense on the ground on Friday, with 222 rushing yards to 99 through the air. Quarterback Zach Burns had more carries than pass attempts, and Vela was West's leading rusher, with 112 yards on 11 carries, including a 64-yard touchdown. 

"We figured they would try to take the pass away from us and force us to run, so we wanted to come out running the football," Cahill said. "We got some different formations, there was some stuff that we hadn't really shown for a couple weeks that we got into that worked for us for a while, and we were able to get the lead by doing that kind of stuff. Then we were just kind of able to sit on it after that."

Vela's long run was the first score of the game, coming with 8:21 remaining in the first quarter. North (5-4, 2-2) responded with a field goal from Arthur Boyzo, Burns scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak, and after Raiders running back Bryson Trigg ran 30 yards for a touchdown, it was 14-10 with 5:46 to play in the second quarter. 

It was 21-13 at halftime after Burns scored again, on a nine-yard run, and North settled for a field goal after Ben Bales put the Raiders at the two-yard line with a 61-yard throw to Charlie Aiken. The Raiders' offense was hampered in the second half by the absence of Trigg, who left after he was hammered by Wolverines cornerback Abraham Camara on a screen play, and North could only manage a field goal in the third quarter. West got two more touchdowns, on an interception that Vela ran back roughly 30 yards and on a 20-yard score off a screen by Bresnahan. 

In his postgame speech, Cahill told the Wolverines to take 24 hours to savor the win and then put their focus on South. Cahill plans to dig into the film on the War Eagles on Saturday, but he already knows that they're a particularly difficult mark. When asked how he thought the Wolverines stack up against South, he paused, then chuckled.

"The're really good," Cahill said. "I mean, they're really good."