GRIMSLEY- East, the reigning 4A State Champion, entered Friday’s “Game of the Week” versus Grimsley riding a 21-game winning streak. However, the undefeated Whirlies led by their dynamic duo of running back Quan Nora and quarterback Christofer Zellous had their sights set on ending the Eagles’ streak.
Both teams have been rarely challenged on their way to undefeated records and the top of their respective 4A conferences, but the Eagles and the Whirlies knew that this game would provide plenty of challenges to remain undefeated. A packed house filled Grimsley’s Robert B. Jamieson Football Stadium for what was sure to be a wild ride.
Early on the Eagles looked to duplicate last season’s dominant victory over the Whirlies by scoring on their two first quarter drives. Both teams looked to establish the run game through the power of their talented backfields. Wake Forest commit Amani Marshall had impressive runs early in the game and his 1-yard touchdown run gave his team the early edge.
When asked about his performance (12 carries, 61 yards, 1 TD), he deferred credit to the hard work of his teammates and stressed the necessity for improvement.
“The O-Line was giving me holes and I was just doing my part,” Marshall said. “The defense did their part tonight too. We still have some things to correct on both offense and defense, we just gotta put some more work in.”
Despite early defensive shortcomings, Grimsely countered by controlling the pace and leaning on its own ground game. Quan Nora had 227 yards on 32 carries and one touchdown which helped the Whirleys control the ball for a majority of the second quarter through its punishing rushing game. Nora’s rushing opened up the option attack allowing quarterback Christofer Zellous to sneak into the end zone to make the score 21-7 going in to half.
With the start of the second half, it was clear that both coaches stressed defensive recognition in the locker room. Eagles cornerback Jabez Gorham added an athletic interception to his already impressive defensive stat line after his crucial first half 49-yard fumble recovery and score.
Post-game he gave extra credit to his teammates and their relentless preparation and practice.
“In practice we work hard, we’re brothers. We kept telling the D-line ‘we got y’alls backs’ and when we scored we all (defense and offense) celebrated on the sidelines,” Gorham stated. “We dogs! Believe that.”
East Forsyth’s cohesive team comradery drove the team’s late push to stop a poised Grimsley offense. Grimsely’s Zellous and Nora led a threatening late push to bring the Whirlies back after their run heavy offense opened up holes for touchdowns from both stars.
Following a rushing touchdown from Zellous late in the fourth quarter, only a single point separated the two teams and Grimsley opted to go for the PAT instead of going for the two-point conversion and a possible victory.
Then the Eagles defense mounted an inspirational stand giving fans a memorable finale.
Senior free safety, Javon Mcallister, remarkably broke through the line and blocked the extra point after a mishandled snap giving the Eagles a one point cushion with little time left on the clock. However, following the touchdown, a perfectly executed Whirlie onside kick gave Grimsley the ball on the Eagles 35 yard line.
East Forsyth’s defensive stars Zyun Reeves and Torrian Jackson made two game-saving plays in the deciding drive of the game. Reeves skied into the air to bat down a potential game winning touchdown pass as Zellous targeted an open receiver in the end zone. On the following play, Jackson made the game-saving sack to halt Grimsley’s final opportunity.
Eagles head Coach Todd Willert had high praise for his defense post-game.
“Zyun, the basketball turned football player, he has gotten better week after week and Torrian has worked so hard in the weight room that it shows as he leads the team in sacks,” coach WIllert said. “I’m just happy for those guys and that their hard work is paying off”.
The East Forsyth Eagles left Greensboro with the tough victory and a 6-0 record against the resilient Grimsley offense. Although they lost, the Grimsley star duo of Zellous and Nora showed flashes of greatness and poise that gave their team a late chance, which is all their coaches could ask for.
East Forsyth now has to prepare for another marquee matchup against another undefeated team--cross county/conference rival West Forsyth next Friday night.
“We play a team just like that Friday again,” said coach Willert. “It’s good to see that before we start conference play, so now we start over again and try and get that first win at the nest and take on West Forsyth”.