By McClain Baxley
For the Forsyth County News
If everything goes right, the Dave Svehla era at West Forsyth will begin by playing Mays in the Corky Kell Classic. The date for the Wolverines’ inaugural appearance in the annual showcase of premiere teams from around Peach State is fluid, but the matchup against a Georgia powerhouse isn’t a one-time occasion in 2020.
Instead, they play a non-region schedule that features teams that have combined for 27 playoff wins since 2016, including two state championship victories, in Cartersville, Mays, Mill Creek and Walton.
“Our guys are going to have to come ready to play every week,” Svehla said. “They would anyway, but a lot of times you want to have a couple non-region games that are really going to challenge you.”
The schedule was set when Svehla was still at Etowah High School, but he said that his players aren’t afraid of the challenge. He hopes by playing talented squads for four straight weeks, it will better prepare his team for region play.
“We’re in the boat where we’re playing four really good teams,” Svehla said. “What it tells me is that regardless of how we come out of that, I will feel like our players have had their feet in the fire, so when we play teams in region that are really good, it won’t be the first time playing a good football team.”
To help navigate the demanding schedule, Svehla is relying on a strong foundation from West on both sides of the ball. In addition to teaching the playbook and working with his guys to prepare for the 2020 season, the head coach has had to return to basics by learning his players’ names and stories.
“It’s been a challenge because we didn’t know on March 12th that would be the last time we’d see our kids for two, three months,” Svehla said. “The whole spring and first part of summer was spent with coaches meeting with guys online and trying to teach a playbook.”
On offense, quarterback Drew Southern is set to return after his 2019 season. Though the senior captain threw for 979 yards and six touchdowns, he also threw eight interceptions in the Wolverines 5-5 campaign.
The rock on Svehla’s offense is senior running back Daba Fofana, who committed to the Naval Academy in July.
“Daba is a great leader through his work ethic, his commitment to wanting to be great,” Svehla said. “He’s not afraid to lead players to make tough calls and call them out.”
Fofana led the Wolverines in rushing last season, averaging 53.5 yards per game and reaching the end zone four times. He also led Forsyth County in punting, averaging 36.5 yards per punt with eight of them landing inside the 20-yard line.
West will have to replace All-County receiver Casey Cowart, who led the team in yards with 711 yards and eight touchdowns. Svehla will look to junior Oscar Delp who had 246 yards on just 15 receptions in 2019.
Paving the way on the offensive line is four-star offensive guard Dylan Fairchild, who committed to Georgia in May.
Svehla’s defense is going to be relying on the play of two senior defensive backs in Kobe Haynes and Dalton Tjong.
^Sept. 2 vs. Mays
Sept. 11 at Cartersville
Sept. 18 BYE
Sept. 25 vs. Walton
Oct. 2 at Mill Creek
Oct. 9 BYE
*Oct. 16 vs. North Forsyth
*Oct. 23 vs. South Forsyth
*Oct. 30 at Forsyth Central
*Nov. 6 at Gainesville
*Nov. 13 at Lambert
*Nov. 20 vs. Denmark
^Corky Kell Classic at West Forsyth High School
*Denotes Region 6-7A contest
4-6 overall, 3-2 Region 5-7A
L — Camden County 47, West 6
L — Hewitt-Trussville (Ala.) 47, West 16
W — West 27, Peachtree Ridge 10
L — McCallie (Tenn.) 19, West 9
L — Milton 34, West 7
W — West 22, Central 17
W — West 33, Lambert 7
W — West 22, North 21
L — South 14, West 10
L — Parkview 35, West 17
First varsity season: 2008
Playoff appearances: 9 (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
Region titles: 1 (2012)
State titles: 0
At South: 0-0, first season
Overall: 49-41, ninth season
“Both of those kids are captains for us and had great offseasons,” Svehla said. “They’re really encouraging and smart. I’m really excited about seeing those guys play.”
Tjong led the defense with five interceptions to go along with his 98 tackles, earning him first-team All-County honors. Haynes had 25 tackles and three passes deflected.
Also in the defensive backfield is junior Bryce Allen who is coming off a two interception, 47 tackle sophomore season. In his first year on varsity, Allen earned second-team All-County honors.
There are parts to replace in all aspects of the game in Svehla’s first year at the helm, but with the help of a determined senior class, Svehla is confident about the challenges to come.
“Our seniors showed some really good leadership and made sure guys were working out,” he said. “I was pleased with the kids’ commitment, given the difficult circumstances, what could have been a disastrous offseason. I think our kids did a good job doing everything they could to get ready for when we finally were able to meet in person.”