Of all local high school sports, few rivalries are as passionate and entertaining as the cross-county matchup of West Forsyth vs. East Forsyth. This past Friday, these two 4A powerhouses grounded it out at the Eagles “Nest” in a wildly exciting “instant classic” to determine who would remain undefeated. Droves of fans files into Fred E. Lewis Stadium in Kernersville for what would prove to be one of the best East vs. West rivalry games in recent memory.
While both teams came into the night riding the momentum of five game winning streaks (21 straight dating back to last year for East), West Forsyth was carrying a slight chip on its shoulder from last year's loss in this important rivalry game. However, they were unable to capitalize on this motivation early and fell behind 7-0 after East Forsyth senior Robbin Smith put the Eagles on the board by punching in a 1 yard touchdown run.
From the outset, it was evident that this game was going to be an absolute “grind-it-out” dog-fight game on both sides of the ball. Each team’s defenses made their presence known by forcing fumbles in two of the games early drives, and West Forsyth would even it up with a touchdown of its own before the end of the first quarter on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Jalen Ferguson to senior G’Mone Wilson.
After making early adjustments, both teams quickly switched pace to a more aggressive style of play. This led to a G’Mone Wilson 20-yard touchdown in West’s opening drive of the second quarter as the Titan’s senior running back scored his second of three on the night while looking to make his mark on this massive rivalry game.
When asked about his impressive performance postgame, Wilson gave credit to his teammates.
“The O-Line played big tonight. We knew all week we needed a big performance from those guys, they’ve been doing it all year and they did it again tonight as well,” said Wilson. “It was an overall effort as a unit, not just me. We knew we had to come in an execute and do everything we could ”
Passing played an integral role in the Titans’ offense throughout the game and Ferguson added a second touchdown pass to receiver Jordan Kennedy in the final minute of the second quarter.
“We knew the play-action could help us a lot,” said Ferguson. “We knew these boys (Eagles) were gonna try to play man-to-man and we got some good guys out wide that can make plays”
Facing a two-touchdown deficit heading into the half and with quarterback Ty Lyles slowed after tweaking his ankle in the first half, things were not looking well for East. And things looked even dimmer for last year’s 4A State Champion Eagles when star running back Ahamani Marshall was sidelined with a shoulder injury on the first play of the second half. After a 69-yard “scoop and score” fumble recovery for West’s Will Knight, the Eagles hopes of continuing their 21-game winning streak looked bleak.
Games like this can either completely derail championship caliber teams like East or drive them to dig deeper and learn about the “grit’ of their squad. The first glimmer of hope erupted across the Eagle’s student section when immediately following the fumble and score, East’s Javon Mcallister returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for a big momentum shifting touchdown.
West would answer on a 44-yard rushing touchdown from Zy Dillard, but after inching closer by way of a few huge Eagle’s defensive stands and a 9-yard touchdown run from Robbin Smith, East’s backup quarterback Joe Ritchens stepped up big. On the opening drive of the final quarter, he bulled his way into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown run. Ty Lyles, deciding he still had more to give to his injury-depleted squad, followed with a 60-yard touchdown pass to Chris Chaplin on the following East Forsyth drive putting the cap on an inspirational comeback. After being down 34-17 in the third quarter, the Eagles now owned a 38-34 lead midway through the final period.
Unfortunately for East, the game didn’t end here. G’Mone Wilson and West’s high octane offense would come back strong. Following Chaplin’s touchdown reception, G’Mone Wilson capped a short 3-play drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to complete his “hat-trick” and score what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown. East wasn’t finished however, and drove it deep into West territory before the Titan defense stiffened. Faced with a fourth-and-long, East decided to attempt a field goal to tie the game, but kicker Andrew Conrad missed on his 47-yard attempt and West ran out the clock to seal the victory.
West Forsyth’s elated coach Adrian Snow tried to put into perspective his team’s huge victory.
“What a war. Just a slugfest! It was like a boxing match that went 15 rounds with the boxers barely standing up at the end. That's what we were doing there at the end. I'm proud of our guys, they did a great job and found a way to win.”
He went on to express his high level of respect for their rival and how they played through injury while also praising his team’s high level of resilience and “never defeated” attitude as they faced the state champions.
Although East Forsyth took a tough loss at the hands of their cross-county rival, there were several positives the Eagles could take from the game. WIth injuries to both their star quarterback and running back, the Eagles had to dig deep and found several untested players who stepped up and gave them a chance to claim victory.
On the other hand, West Forsyth made a noticeable statement with this monumental win, adding even more validity to its impressive 7-0 start. Look out for the red-hot West Forsyth Titans heading into this season’s high school football playoff push.