South Forsyth and West Forsyth clashed on Friday night for the right to claim second place in the region and secure the crucial home playoff game that comes with it. The home standing War Eagles kept the game close early, but the tenacious offense of the Wolverines eventually pushed the game out of reach and propelled West to a convincing 45-20 victory.
West (7-2, 5-1 Region 6-AAAAAA) featured a high-powered offense that was firing on all cylinders, finding significant success in both their passing and rushing attacks. On the other hand, South (7-2, 4-2) struggled to produce consistent offense and never found an exploitable weakness in the Wolverines’ defense.
"This is the time of the year where it’s going to be tough against whomever you’re playing," West coach Frank Hepler said. "We got a big win over a 7-1 football team who has been playing well recently and I was really happy to be able to get this win on the road. Credit to our guys for playing well and credit to South’s young men for doing a good job. It was just a fun game for us tonight."
West quarterback Hampton McConnell (24 of 31, 279 yards, 4 total TDs) was an offensive dynamo, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another two scores. McConnell frequently utilized his running backs in the passing game, hitting both Grant Anderskow (10 catches, 85 yards, TD) and Trevor O’Brien (19 rushes, 110 yards, 3 total TDs) for touchdown passes.
"It was a hard week of practice for us because we knew that we had to play well early in the game," O’Brien said. "This was such a huge game in the region, for second place and the home playoff game. I have to give a shout out to the Whale Squad [West’s O-line] for opening those holes up in the running game."
South jumped out to an early first quarter lead when captain Brett Larkin (5 rushes, 20 yards, 2 TDs) bullied his way into the endzone on a two-yard run. West would then answer several minutes later when McConnell found O’Brien for a 7 yard touchdown reception, tying the game at 7-7.
The teams would once again trade touchdowns and find themselves locked up 14-14 early in the second quarter. From that point on, West took control of the football game and forced South to play from behind the rest of the way. The Wolverines put together three consecutive scoring drives in the second quarter, inflating their advantage 35-14 at halftime.
The last West score of the first half came with some controversy. On fourth-and-goal on South’s 2 yard line with only five seconds remaining, West handed the ball to O’Brien who leapt over his own linemen and crossed the plane of the goal line, but lost the football after being pushed back. South claimed that O’Brien fumbled the football in mid-leap, but the officials disagreed and awarded West the touchdown.
"The play before halftime was huge," South coach Jeff Arnette said. "I obviously didn’t agree with the call, but it is what it is. Still, I’m so proud of my team, especially the seniors who have come so far in four years. It has been an absolute gift from god, a true pleasure, to coach these seniors."
With the win, West secured second place in the region behind Alpharetta. Conversely, South still has some work to do in order to finalize its playoff position. With three teams vying for two playoff spots, the final week of the regular season will prove crucial for the teams sitting on the bubble.
"Coach Hepler always preaches that a good week of practice means that we’ll do well in the game," West senior defensive lineman Josh Davis said. "It’s pretty great being a senior and getting this win, but we still have one more week to go against Lambert."