West wins opener against Oak Grove

Published 2:10 pm Monday, March 1, 2021

By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

Things couldn’t have gone much better for the West Forsyth football team last Thursday night in its season opener against Oak Grove at Jerry Peoples Stadium.

Yes, it was weird having football start a season in late February, but all the same sights and sights of the game were there. And the icing on the cake for West Forsyth was that it dominated Oak Grove and won 44-21 in a non-conference game.

The game was billed as the return to football for West Forsyth. The Titans hadn’t played a game since late November 2019 after it was defeated at home in the NCHSAA Class 4-AA quarterfinals against Charlotte Vance. There was no fall football season in North Carolina because of the dangers related to playing during COVID-19.

“It was awesome. That was a big part of it,” said Coach Adrian Snow of the Titans, who is in his 13th season as the head coach. “We talked about it. We got emotional about it, being a part of it. The players did a great job. Oak Grove — they’re awesome.”

In addition to it being the return of football, it was also a reunion of sorts between Snow and Coach Mark Holcomb of Oak Grove. West Forsyth plays in the Central Piedmont 4-A, and Holcomb previously coached in the conference when he was the head coach at North Davidson. Holcomb has been the head coach at Oak Grove in Midway since 2017 when the school opened. However, the Grizzlies didn’t have a varsity team until the 2018-19 season.

“Mark Holcomb and his crew — they’re phenomenal coaches. So any time you play them you need to be ready,” Snow said. “I felt like our kids did a really good job and got back at it.”

The total yardage doesn’t really show just how much West Forsyth dominated the game. The Titans took a 38-0 lead with the help of a 14-yard touchdown run by Jevante Long with 6:38 left in the third quarter.

The Titans finished with 247 yards rushing, including 107 yards on 11 carries by Long. Nasion Johnson also had 82 yards rushing win 11 carries. Johnson also tacked on two kickoff returns for touchdowns of 85 and 90 yards in the second half.

“They’re good players,” Snow said of Long and Johnson. “You start with (Johnson). He’s waited his time, and he’s a good back. We all knew what we had last year. He was good, but you know those other guys are really good too. He’s waited his time, and now it’s been good for him. Tay’s (Long) really good. The kid at the end was really good, Malachi Jowers is going to be a good player for us too. I think it’s a positive and I’m just excited for our kids.”

The Titans held the Grizzlies to 129 yards rushing 39 carries, led by running back Aiden Shewcow, who had 82 yards on 24 carries. Quarterback Dylan Barker of the Grizzlies was 7-for-20 passing for two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“They’ve got a great back, and you’ve got to get it going before he gets going,” Snow said. “It’s one of those things. I felt like our kids played bard. That was a good thing, not to say their kids didn’t. But I felt like our kids played really hard and I think it was showing that they wanted to get back out here.”

The Titans took a 3-0 lead after place-kicker Jaylen James kicked a 28-yard field goal with 3:47 left in the first quarter. It didn’t take long for the Titans to take control in the second quarter. Just 30 seconds in, Long scored on a 6-yard run to help push the lead to 10-0. Barker was intercepted by Don Robinson on the ensuing possession, and two plays later, James scored on a 1-yard run to help push the lead to 17-0 with 10:13 left in the second quarter.

The West Forsyth defense stepped up again with 8:56 left in the second quarter. Jake Hill intercepted Barker, and the Titans took over own their own 49. Long scored four plays later on a  43-yard touchdown run to help make it 24-0 with 6:38 left in the second quarter.

“I think (the defense) has the potential to be pretty stout,” Snow said. “The great thing for us is there’s only two seniors in the group to be honest with you.”

Johnson scored with an 85-yard run on the opening kickoff of the second half to help make it 31-0 with 11:44 left in the third quarter. Oak Grove took over, but it had to punt. David Eldridge of West Forsyth blocked it and JD Legrant picked up the loose ball for the Titans at the Grizzlies’ 14 with 9:34 left in the third quarter.

Long scored on the first play of the drive on a 14-yard run to help push the lead to 38-0 with 9:34 left in the third quarter.

“It’s just good to be here,” Snow said. “It’s just good to be here.”

Oak Grove was able to get some momentum after that, but it was too little and too late. Barker threw a touchdown pass with 4:25 left in the third quarter to help slice the lead to 38-7, and Barker threw another touchdown pass just five seconds into the fourth quarter to help make it 38-14. On the ensuing kickoff, Johnson ran 90 yards for a touchdown to make it 44-14 with 11:34 left.

“I was proud of them,” Snow said. “I felt like it was good to get going.

“Nason is twitchy. Tay is tough to tackle because he’s like crazy legs. He’s just like everywhere. But he just keeps his feet moving all the time.”

The first game of the season is over, and it’s time to prepare for West Forsyth’s final non-conference game Friday night when it plays host to Greensboro Page. Page, which is always one of the best teams in the Triad, lost to Greensboro Dudley 32-6 in its opener last week. It was also the first game for Doug Robertson as head coach of the Pirates. Robertson coached the previous two seasons at Thomasville. Robertson replaced Jared Rolfes, who was not retained as the Pirates’ head coach after going to 20-17 in the three seasons.

“Doug Robertson is one of the best football coaches in our state,” Snow said. “He really does do a good job. Doug Robertson will prepare them and we’ve got to be ready to play.

“The biggest gain for any team comes from Week 1 to Week 2. And that’s what happens most every year. But Doug will have them ready to go.”

Page won NCHSAA Class 4-A state championships in 1980 and from 1983-85 under former Coach Marion Kirby. Page also lost in the 1982 state championship to Jacksonville. Page also defeated Garner in the 2011 NCHSAA Class 4-AA championship with Kevin Gillespie as head coach. Page lost to Charlotte Mallard Creek in the 2015 Class 4-AA championship, and it also lost the 2016 Class 4-AA state championship to Wake Forest.

“Page High School is one of the most storied programs in our state, so we better be ready to play,” Snow said.

West Forsyth defeated Page 26-7 in Greensboro in its last meeting on Oct. 4, 2019.

“You better bring your ‘A’ game every time you play them,” Snow said. “We’re excited we’ve got the opportunity.”

Despite Page losing to Dudley, Snow knows Page might look a lot different in Clemmons on Friday.

“You go through COVID. You go through what Doug went through to be the coach, and not seeing the kids for so long, you can understand having some first-game issues,” Snow said. “But I certainly believe Friday he’ll be ready to go. I certainly that will occur and we’ll have to be ready to play.”

The Page game also gives West Forsyth a chance to prepare for Central Piedmont 4-A conference play, which starts next week for West Forsyth in Clemmons against East Forsyth, the two-time defending NCHSAA Class 4-A state champion. This stretch of games is also part of five straight home games before ending the season at Reagan and at Davie County in this seven-game regular season.

“Another week to prepare,” Snow said. “Another week to get better. You ain’t got many weeks, so you better enjoy what you’ve got. So that’s where we’re at at this point. We’ve got to enjoy the time where we’re at, and we’ll enjoy playing Page, and we’ll go from there and see what happens.”