ROSWELL — It was a tale of two halves on Friday night, as West Forsyth outlasted Centennial.
The Wolverines (3-2, 1-1 Region 6-AAAAAA) finished the game with 34 unanswered points in the final 16 minutes of the game to earn a 48-24 victory at Centennial.
"It’s region play now," Josh Davis, senior defensive lineman, said. "We already lost last week. Coach Hep’ said we’re last in the region and it’s time to turn it up, and we did."
Centennial (1-4, 1-1) jumped out a 17-0 lead in the second quarter, but West rallied to take the lead behind junior quarterback Hampton McConnell.
McConnell got things started for the Wolverines with a 1-yard sneak for a touchdown to make the score 17-7 with 3:52 left in the second quarter. Following a defensive stop, McConnell found Nathan Schmitz for a 46-yard touchdown pass with 47 seconds left in the half to send West into the locker room trailing 17-14.
The Knights responded with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Luke Able to Kenyon Russell to go up 24-14, but it was all West from then on.
Trevor O’Brien added a 4-yard touchdown and Gabe Pierce tacked on a 3-yard touchdown to put West ahead 27-24 after a missed extra point with 11:42 in the fourth quarter, giving the Wolverines their first lead of the game.
"We knew we had to step up," Davis said. "We just rallied around some of the guys who were making big plays right when we needed to. It was pretty awesome after we got it going a little bit."
Davis did his part in the play-making, tallying a sack and recovering a crucial fumble late in the game after an Austin Sanders sack.
"It says a lot about our team," Georgia Tech-commit Andrew Marshall said. "We were down 17-0 and kept fighting. The offense kept working hard and the defense did a great job in the second half with three turnovers so we all worked really hard to make that comeback and kept fighting."
The running game played a huge role in West’s comeback win. They tallied 312 yards rushing, while holding Centennial to just 56 yards on the ground.
"They’ve been having some trouble stopping the run this year, from what we saw on film," Hepler said. "So we knew that if we could get the running game going and try to give multiple guys touches from different directions, we thought we’d have some success."
McConnell got the bulk of those numbers, tallying 156 yards on 20 carries for two touchdown runs, but several guys helped carry the load. O’Brien had 19 carries for 67 yards with two touchdowns. Grant Anderskow finished the game with six carries for 55 yards.
"We started off slow," Marshall said. "But then we came out and finally got some things rolling and then we got our momentum and got together as a team and started playing hard, playing every play, and finishing drives."
The Wolverines’ defense in the second half was the difference in the game. They held the Knights to 133 total yards and seven points in the second half, while also forcing three turnovers in the final quarter.
Early in the fourth, after West finally got their first lead of the game, cornerback Nick Walker got an interception and returned it 35 yards down to Centennial’s 22-yard line. Walker added a second interception two possessions later to put the final nail in the Knights’ coffin.
Centennial came out of the gate quickly in the first quarter. Christian Robinson rose above two defenders and snagged the ball out of the air and ran the rest of the way for a 76-yard touchdown pass from Luke Able to put the Knights up 10-0 midway through the first.
Robinson finished the game with five catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.
After a three-and-out on West’s next drive, Centennial drove down again, and this time Able found Kenyon Russell for one of his two touchdowns on the game, to put the Knights up 17-0 early in the second quarter.
Able finished 15-of-25 for 218 yards and three touchdowns on the night. But he also added two interceptions and a fumble in the second half, and that’s what made the difference.
"It was a good win for us," Hepler said. "I told our guys we were last in the region coming in here. They have big goals and they don’t want to be last in the region, so they knew they had to step it up tonight."