The West Forsyth football team knew the potential playoff scenarios swirling around its matchup with South Forsyth on Friday. But the Wolverines also knew how to render them all moot: Win.
And that’s what they did, beating the War Eagles 24-14 to clinch the No. 2 playoff seed out of Region 5-7A and a home matchup in the first round next week. The win completed a 4-0 run by the Wolverines (5-5, 4-1 Region 5-7A) to end the season after starting 1-4.
“I don’t think it was a big turnaround, it just looks better in the win-loss column,” West head coach Shawn Cahill said. “We feel a little bit vindicated for the schedule that we put together, playing those teams. We feel like it was worth it, what we did, and got our kids ready.”
The loss put South (5-5, 2-3) in the No. 4 spot in the bracket.
The game, played on a cold, windy night, was practically devoid of offense in the first quarter, and South scored first, with Jordan Brunson running a 39-yard touchdown in to put the War Eagles up 6-0 with 10:39 left in the second quarter.
West’s response, however, was an encapsulation of the significant change and progress the Wolverines have shown during the region schedule. During the non-region slate, West was a heavily run-based offense, throwing the ball as few as seven times per game. But with sophomore quarterback Drew Southern taking the snaps, the Wolverines are much more apt to pass.
“That’s why I took the headset off,” Cahill said. “I don’t want to hear the plays: I just want to see the outcome. I don’t want to hear it, because I might have said, ‘No, no, no!’”
Their first bursts of offense on Friday came through the air. On a third down less than two minutes after South’s first touchdown, Southern faced heavy pressure but rolled out to the right, spotted a wide-open Stephon Bland down the right sideline and hit the senior square for a 30-yard score. The Wolverines forced a punt and went to the air again on offense: A 35-yard throw over the top to Abe Camara put them at South’s 20, and after a five-yard run by Saxby Waxer, Southern hit Camara again, on a jump ball in the end zone for a 15-yard score.
“That kind of gets me going at the beginning, when you throw me a deep ball,” Camara said. “I feel like the offense is flowing more.”
The games’ ultimate implications rode on the outcome of the game between Forsyth Central and Lambert, and if the War Eagles were to win by nine points or more, even with a Central win, they would take the three-way tiebreaker and claim the No. 2 seed. After a scoreless third quarter, South provided a surge of hope that it could do that, tying the game at 14-14 after quarterback Drew Morris scored from seven yards out with 10:01 to play.
West soon extinguished that possibility, though. The Wolverines made it 21-14 on the next drive after a 26-yard touchdown run from Waxer, and after a South punt, Parker Hannon made a 40-yard field goal to establish a vital two-score cushion for West. The War Eagles turned it over on downs on the next drive, and once West got a first down, the Wolverines bled out the clock for the win.
While the Wolverines’ win negated the possibility of a three-way tie in their region, that was what happened in Region 8-7A, which is paired with Region 5 for the first round. The scuffle ended with Newton (4-6) as the No. 3 seed, though, and that’s who West will receive at home next Friday. South is headed to Grayson (8-2), whose only losses have come to national powerhouse Bergen Catholic of New Jersey and Colquitt County, the top-ranked team in Class 7A.