Late Thursday night, the West Forsyth Wolverines captured their season opener against Archer, 21-7, earning a home win in the Corky Kell Classic for the third straight year.
“I thought our effort was tremendous,” Wolverines head coach David Svehla said. “I thought our defense was rallying to the ball. We did a really good job pressuring them in the backfield. They got some playmakers back there, and they’re hard to tackle [but] I really thought our guys did a great job rallying to the ball. We kept them from making a lot of big plays, and I thought that was key.”
The Wolverines offense relied on running back Peyton Streko in their first series. Streko was tearing up the Tigers defense. He caught a screen pass and took it 15 yards, then took the handoff and made multiple Archer defenders miss on back-to-back plays to get the Wolverines to first-and-goal.
Starting on the 6-yard line, Streko tried to muscle his way into the end zone. The senior stretched his arm to reach for a touchdown, but the ball fell out of his hands. Archer recovered the football in the end zone for a touchback to get the ball on the 20-yard line.
The Tigers didn't have any success with the football. On third-and-8, the Tigers threw a screen pass, but a pack of Wolverines burst through the blockers and tackled Archer for a loss of 4 yards, forcing the visitors to punt the ball back to West.
On third-and-7, Wolverines senior quarterback Jack Tomlinson got the ball off to senior wide receiver Will Fulkerson, who was left all alone to convert the first down.
With West knocking on the door, Tomlinson scanned the field and threw a lob pass to his 6-foot-2 junior wide receiver Henry Delp, who mossed two Tiger defenders in the corner of the end zone to strike first on the scoreboard.
The Wolverines defense continued to make the Tigers work for every yard.
Archer’s quarterback Justin Johnson completed a screen wide receiver P.J. Rogers, but Grey Brockman made a vicious tackle behind the line of scrimmage. On fourth-and-6, the Tigers tried to fool the Wolverines by lining up in the shotgun formation. But instead of going for it, Johnson got the snap and punted the ball to the 18-yard line.
On its next drive, Archer lined up in the shotgun on third-and-13. Brendan Rogers used his speed to get past the Wolverines secondary on a vertical route, and Johnson threw the ball right into his arms for a huge gain. Next play, the Wolverines punched the ball out and caused a turnover to give the football right back to their offense.
With 4:27 remaining in the second quarter, Archer's punt was short and wobbly, giving the Wolverines the ball on the 49-yard line.
Junior Ryder Stewart filled in for an injured Streko, who was having a big game with 95 yards on 12 touches.
The Wolverines used Stewart on offense last season, when he gathered 497 yards and two touchdowns, and even as a freshman, so it wouldn't be anything new for him. On a sweep handoff, Stewart got a pancake block from his teammates and raced his way for a 47-yard touchdown to grow the lead to 14-0.
Stewart finished the game carrying the ball 13 times for 98 yards.
“We showed him some opportunities to put his foot in the ground and cut to take advantage of the open pursuit, and I thought he did a great job,” Svehla said.
The Tigers returned the same energy. On fourth-and-2, Rogers ran past the defense and found an open spot, where he easily caught the 17-yard touchdown reception.
In the third quarter, the Wolverines offense didn’t look in-sync, as the team got two delay of game penalties and left Svehla no choice but to use his timeouts before getting another one.
However after a timeout, West started to drive down the field, and that’s when Tomlinson threw his second touchdown of the game. This one was a 4-yarder to Hunter Green.
“My favorite throw was his first touchdown today,” Svehla said, describing Tomlinson's performance. “He made the correct read. I watched his read key to make sure he was doing it, and I thought his read was correct and his fundamentals were really good. He threw a beautiful ball to Henry in the corner of the end zone that was executed really well.”
It was Tomlinson's first varsity game, and with all the attention the Wolverines were getting during the week, he didn't show any signs of being intimidated and helped will West to victory, completing 14 of his 21 passes for 124 yards. He wasn't sacked and didn't throw an interception.
The Tigers had a chance to score late in the fourth quarter, but an off-target throw by Johnson on fourth down ruined their chance. The Wolverines defense kept Johnson on his heels the entire game, sacking him six times.
Up next for the West Forsyth Wolverines, they will host Marietta at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26.