This story was first published by the Forsyth County News on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010.
By Brian Chmielewski
For the Forsyth County News
Football is often said to be a game of inches, and for West Forsyth, it was also a game of seconds Friday night.
The Wolverines finished both halves in dramatic fashion and got help from a bizarre final play to earn a key 28-21 region victory against Milton at The Den.
“We are young and just trying to survive,” West coach Frank Hepler said. “Tonight our guys fought hard and we got out with a big win over a very good Milton team.”
On the final pay of the game, Milton sat at the Wolverines’ 16-yard line with 2.6 seconds to play and the clock stopped after a 40-yard completion for a first down. As the official signaled to wind the clock, the Eagles’ backup quarterback Zack Spiezio took a knee and the game was over.
Spiezio failed to understand to spike the ball in the high-pressure situation, and the game ended with West on top.
Milton (3-5 overall, 2-2 Region 6-AAAAA) had fought back from a 21-7 halftime deficit to tie the game with 4:35 to play when Peyton Barber (23 carries, 111 yards rushing) ran in from three yards out for his second score of the second half.
He had also scored at the 1:56 mark in the third quarter. In the second half, Milton’s offense had run 34 plays to just 14 for the Wolverines when West took over with 4:28 on the clock and the game tied at 21.
West ran five plays and 68 yards on that drive to score its only points of the second half on a 17-yard run from Ethan Shirley (18 carries, 96 yards rushing) that put West up for good 28-21 with 2:02 to play.
The star on offense for the Wolverines (7-2, 4-1) was Blake Roberts, who ran for 131 yards on 16 carries.
The Wolverines only threw the ball three times for 6 yards. Prior to their scoring drive in the fourth quarter, West’s offense had run just 14 plays in the second half for 34 yards, but the Wolverines’ offense still managed to rush for 247 yards in the game and came up big when they needed to.
“Our guys ran hard all night,” Hepler said. “Our offensive line did a great job of opening up holes all night, and on that last drive they really rose up and made blocks.”
Arguably the biggest play of the game came at the close of the first half.
Milton had driven to the Wolverines’ 1-yard line and was attempting to tie the game at 14 with less than 20 seconds to play in the half when West defensive back Robert Lewis (2 interceptions) stepped in front of Joe Vance’s pass at the goal line and took the pick 100 yards for a touchdown with 2.8 seconds left.
That score put all the momentum firmly in the Wolverines’ camp and gave them a 21-7 lead at the half.
“That was just a huge play,” Hepler said. “We try to preach to our guys that it is all about playing every play because anything can happen and it did.”
West jumped out early, scoring on its first two drive of the game to post an early 14-0 lead. West’s offense opened the game with an 11-play drive that went 75 yards – all rushing plays – to the end zone as Colton Cloud went in from a yard out with 2:58 to play in the first. On their second possession, the Wolverines stayed on the ground and scored when Roberts went in from 13 yards out with 10:18 to play in the half. Milton later cut the lead to 14-7 on a 63-yard pass from Vance to Spencer Conrad with 7:40 to go in the half.
Despite the victory, West can’t celebrate its first trip to the playoffs just yet. Although the Wolverines are still a half-game up in the region standings, one crazy scenario – with five teams ending the season tied for first place – still lurks as a possibility.
If the cards fall just right, West could share a 4-2 region record with Milton, North Forsyth, Roswell and Centennial, with each team having gone 2-2 against the others. That outcome could result in a coin flip to decide who advances to the postseason.
“We just try to come out, play hard and battle,” Hepler said. “All year we have done that and we are in a position to potentially win the region, our kids deserve a ton of credit, and they will come in Monday ready to work.”