HOSCHTON – West Forsyth football coach Shawn Cahill had to fight back the tears as he addressed his team following their 29-14 defeat to Mill Creek in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs Friday.
“You deserve to be here,” Cahill said to his team. “You deserved to be on that football field with (Mill Creek), and if they wanted to play us tomorrow, I’d play them again.”
The Wolverines (7-4) started off strong, controlling the line of scrimmage in the first quarter and holding Mill Creek (8-3) to just 10 yards of offense.
“It would have been real easy for our kids this week to kind of look at it and go, ‘Oh, it’s Mill Creek that we’ve got to play,’” said Cahill about facing the back-to-back state semifinalists. “And they didn’t. They came out here with the idea to win the game.”
But West was unable to capitalize off its strong defense with both of its opening quarter possessions ending in punts from the Mill Creek side of the field.
Mill Creek started to find its rhythm in the second quarter, led by running back Uriah Leverette (22 carries, 151 yards, TD), who scored a on a 38-yard touchdown run to put the Hawks up 10-0 at halftime.
After falling down 20-0 in the third quarter, West found a spark.
On a 10-play, 80-yard drive, quarterback Zach Burns completed three passes to receiver Stephon Bland for 44 yards to make it first-and-goal from the 10-yard line.
After a 22-yard holding penalty to make it second-and-goal from the 32, West was able to get the yardage back in chunks, ultimately ending the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to a diving Garrett Woodall in the back of the end zone.
“Our kids kept fighting to the end there,” Cahill said. “That’s what they’ve done all season, and I’m proud of them for it.”
Even after throwing a pick-six interception to fall behind 27-7 early in the fourth quarter, West didn’t quit. On the drive following the interception, Burns connected with Vanderbilt-commit Ben Bresnahan five times for 71 yards on the 80-yard touchdown drive that Bresnahan (8 catches, 99 yards, TD) finished with a 24-yard leaping catch in the end zone.
“We moved (Bresnahan) around a little bit,” said Cahill about getting Bresnahan (one catch for 9 yards in the first half) more involved in the second half. “And then Ben just made some great catches. (Mill Creek) was still right there, and Ben just went and played like Ben.”
In the end though, it was just too little too late as Mill Creek was able to run out the clock, putting an end to Cahill’s first season as head coach of the Wolverines.
“Obviously it was hard because we were only with (Cahill) for however long,” said Bresnahan about the senior class. “But each and every one of us got so close to him, and it’s the same with everyone else on the team.
“I just can’t wait to see what they do next year since everyone is so close to coach Cahill. He really created a whole entire environment where everyone feels like family.”