Spring Sidelines 2019 Episode 4: West Forsyth
West Forsyth head football coach Shawn Cahill spent a good bit of his offseason watching track and field meets, and with good reason to do so.
The Wolverines’ boys team, which won the county and region championships, did so with the help of some athletes that will be playing for Cahill on the football field in the fall. In watching those meets, the possibilities were churning through Cahill’s mind.
“If you're fortunate enough to get to the playoffs, you've got to have some team speed,” Cahill said. “We've wanted to develop that, and we do feel like we're going to be a little bit more athletic, a little faster than we were a year ago.”
With a good amount of key starters leaving, West is getting younger this year. But as Cahill and his staff saw during spring practice, those physical attributes appear to be an asset early on, and the Wolverines will be trying to take advantage of them as they try to find the players that will fill vacated roles.
“We know we're going to be young, but we think we're going to be pretty athletic there in all those spots,” Cahill said. “It’s just going to take some time for them to get comfortable with what we're doing and be able to make plays that we think they can make.”
Last year, West put an emphasis on utilizing their best athletes on both sides of the ball, with Abe Camara and Stephon Bland being the primary pieces that the Wolverines played both ways. The Wolverines are already gearing up to have their best players ready to play multiple positions by the latter half of the season, with Jack Hughes, Oscar Delp and Eli Orr already getting reps on defense and offense.
Quarterback Blake Whitfield is back for his senior season after suffering a season-ending injury midway through last year. Backup Drew Southern played well for the Wolverines in his stead, but Whitfield will almost certainly be the starter again. During the spring, he was focused on improving his decision making.
“Getting hurt last year, I was bummed out, but Drew stepped up and he did good,” Whitfield said. “Coming back, I feel like I'm stronger this year.”
While West still needs to find some receivers, Whitfield will still have some weapons around him, particularly at a deep running back position. While the offensive line will be young with just two returning starters, West feels like it has some guys to find the holes, including newcomer Daba Fofana. The rising junior ran track for West this year and spent his sophomore season at Riverwood High School, where he rushed for 142 yards on 30 carries with five touchdowns.
“He’s one of the best running backs I've seen in a while,” Whitfield said. “He hits the holes hard and he just puts his head down and just gets the yardage that we need.”
On defense, the Wolverines have options at linebacker with Hughes, Delp and Orr, but are still examining the secondary positions. On the line, rising junior Dylan Fairchild looks to be a very bright spot.
“Dylan's kind of a younger kid,” offensive lineman Arad Yavarian said. “He’s stepped up because he's one of the only guys coming back from last year that started on D-line. He's really picking it up and trying to get everybody's energy up.”
West started last season 1-4, but parlayed their experience against quality competition into a second-place region finish and a home playoff game. This season, even with all their losses in personnel, they hope they can get off to a faster start.
“Everyone’s kind of pitching in a lot because we obviously know we've lost a lot of talent since last year,” Yavarian said. “There’s a lot of guys that have talent, and we can still be a really good football team.”