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Big finish! Late TD carries West past East in 4AA playoffs

For the first time in its 50-year history, West Forsyth High School is having a new item on the agenda during Thanksgiving break — playoff football at home.

Twenty-three years removed from their last holiday game (a road trip to East Forsyth), the 2013 Titans made history last Friday night with a memorable 22-16 come-from-behind win over East in the second round of the NCHSAA 4-AA state playoffs. They will now host Matthews Butler, the defending state champions, this Friday night at 7:30.

In terms of tone and structure, the game was everything West’s first round win over Charlotte Vance was not. Thrilling, intense and well-played throughout, the outcome of the cross-town battle was determined by the final drives of both teams. The last West march produced points. The East march did not.

“Unbelievable! It was just an unbelievable game,” mentioned exhausted Titan defensive lineman Dominick Rowdy following his team’s 12th win of the season “We were behind but I knew all along that we could come back. I had total confidence in our offense. On defense, we stepped up when we had to.”

Titan coach Adrian Snow shared the praise for his team after the Titans improved to 12-1 on the year.

“We found a way to get it done” he told his players and a large contingency of West students and fans who gathered on the field after the emotion-filled victory. “Our defense got us the ball back when we needed it and our offense put together a great drive to get us the lead. Then we held on there at the end. We struggled some earlier in the game but those struggles ultimately make you stronger.”

Slade gives Titans late lead

West, which trailed at the end of the first three quarters and most of the fourth, needed an unforgettable 80-yard march in the final two minutes to take its only lead of the night. Sophomore quarterback Darion Slade deftly engineered the march, throwing for several first downs and running for another. He capped off the drive with a 21-yard scramble that started with a juke in the backfield and ended with a sprint across the goal line.

“It was a busted play, I was looking to pass the ball,” Slade explained later. “But things kind of broke down so I just took off. I got the blocks I needed and found my way to the end zone. It was a pretty special feeling to finally get the lead.”

Titan D stops final drive

With 57 seconds still left to play, the Eagles attempted to answer with an impressive drive of their own. They advanced to the West 15-yard line with 19 seconds to go but were stopped there when Titan defenders Jalen Dalton, Reggie Howell and A.J. Harrison sacked East quarterback Karson Sharpe for a loss.

Time expired before the Eagles could attempt another play, touching off a wild celebration among West fans, coaches and players.

“It’s just fun to be a part of all of this,” said West’s Kedlin Huntley, a standout defensive back and return specialist. “This was a huge win. East has a great team. But this one went our way and we’re moving on!”

Hosting Butler this Friday

The victory avenged West’s 17-10 loss to East in week three of the season.

More importantly, it advances the Titans into round three for only the fourth time in school history. Their opponents on this occasion will be the Bulldogs from Butler — a team that has knocked them out of the playoffs in two of the past four years. Butler, now 10-3, advanced with a win over Charlotte Independence last Friday night.