South Forsyth High’s football team knew the environment this week would be challenging against a talented and skilled Gainesville.
Its focus was containment and staying away from allowing the big plays.
The War Eagles managed to accomplish both with a 17-9 win over the Red Elephants on Friday night at City Park Stadium.
South Forsyth remains undefeated in Region 6 7A.
“We knew it was going to be a tough environment,” War Eagles coach Troy Morris said. “We knew we were going to be in a fight. This is absolutely huge.”
South Forsyth (6-1, 4-0 in Region 6 7A) had a sluggish first half offensively, as many of their plays were being bottled up by Gainesville’s athletic defense.
The War Eagles could not really get into any rhythm.
However, while the offense was trying to find a groove, the defense stepped it up. They kept Gainesville (4-3, 1-2) from busting out for big plays, as it has done thus far on the season.
Both teams were hard pressed to find the end zone. The Red Elephants held a 3-0 lead at halftime after a Giovanni Martinez 37-yard field goal.
The second half was a different story.
South Forsyth lead heavy on its offensive line. The War Eagles ate up clock and piled up yards.
There were no big plays.
It was just execution and will before senior running back Gavin Morris gave South Forysth its first lead, 7-3, of the evening.
Tyler Simpson extended the lead, 10-3, on a 47-yard field goal.
“Probably one of the things they did differently in the second half was lean on the run game a little bit more and play the four yards and a club of dust,” Gainesville coach Heath Webb said. “ It kept us standing on the sideline and made us kind of press offensively once we did get the ball. Their offensive line kinda took over.”
South Forsyth’s best defense was the offensive line having ball control.
This kept the Red Elephants offense at bay.
When it did get on the field, the War Eagles defense understood the assignment of keeping the red jerseys in front of them.
“Defensively we played great the whole game,” Morris said. “We tried to keep them in front of us. They have a really good tailback and their quarterback hurt us in the first-half. We made some adjustments.
“I just thought our defense played really well. They eliminated the big plays and that helped us settle in to play.”
Gainesville’s offense is led by Naim Cheeks and Baxter Wright. The War Eagles kept Cheeks bottled up most of the night.
In the first half, Wright got into a groove running the ball and on screen passes. Things were not as fluid in the second-half.
The Red Elephants were moving the ball late in the game before the stadium became silent. Wright was scrambling to evade the War Eagles defensive line. One player had him by the leg while another tackled him up top. The sophomore signal caller stayed on the ground for several minutes. Everyone was concerned about his well being. Before being carted off the filed, both teams gathered around him wishing for a healthy recovery.
Gainesville found the end zone when backup quarterback Marcere Walker connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Cheeks.
The Red Elephants’ two-point attempt failed with 14.2 seconds left to play.
“That’s one thing I will say about my guys. They’re going to compete,” Webb said. “I have no doubt we will continue to compete.”
Up next, Gainesville visits West Forsyth on Friday in Cumming.