West Forsyth squeaks past A.C. Reynolds in Wallace’s debut as head coach

Published 12:28 pm Saturday, August 19, 2023

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

There was a lot of pomp and circumstance Friday night at Jerry Peoples Stadium with the start of the high school football season and the Kevin Wallace regime as head coach at West Forsyth.

Oh, and West Forsyth squeaked past A.C. Reynolds 8-7 for the win with a touchdown pass from Bert Rice to Darell Paige, and a two-point conversion late in the second quarter.

It was Wallace’s first game as head coach for West Forsyth (1-0) after he replaced Adrian Snow, who resigned late last year after 15 seasons. Also, Friday’s game was a rematch of last year’s season opener where West Forsyth played A.C. Reynolds in Asheville and lost 37-0.

“It’s awesome. It’s a recap. I mean, we’re 1-0,” Wallace said. “Everybody always puts that extra little elephant on your back the whole time until you get to it. So, it’s nice to get rid of that. You know, we see what we’ve got to fix where the defense really stepped up.

“There’ll be the things that they have to correct and all that stuff. Offensively, we’ve just got to make plays. I mean there was stuff there. We’ve got to execute and we’ve got to do a better job of holding them more accountable for it.”

Although Wallace had been the coach Northwest Guilford before he came to West Forsyth, Friday night was still something new for him.

“You always have little butterflies,” Wallace said. “My thing going into it is I just didn’t want West to be beat West. I thought we had a shot as long as we didn’t, as long we executed, we didn’t turn the ball over, we didn’t cause so many penalties. I thought if we executed and did what we were supposed to then we’d be fine. Um, there’s aways those little nerves of what the kids are going to do when you’re relying on 14-, 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds, you know.”

Both teams struggled to get anything going in the first half. A.C. Reynolds (1-0) had the first of its five turnovers with 7:27 left in the first quarter after quarterback Hayden Craig was intercepted by Gabe Akpen.

The Titans didn’t do anything with the momentum and had to punt. On the ensuing possession, Christian Lewis of the Rockets fumbled after he was tackled by Daviare Eldridge and Akpen recovered it on their 6-yard line

“We’ve just got to play better offensively,” Rockets Coach Shane Laws said. “We were so bad. I don’t remember a time where we were this bad offensively. And it’s a lot of different ways. We didn’t execute. At times we played hard, and we just made so many assignment mistakes, but ultimately that’s on me. It’s my fault.

“I’ve got to reevaluate how much we’re trying to do with these guys because we have so many guys coming back off the offense from last year, I think we maybe we a little bit too fast.”

The Titans took possession after the fumble recovery with 38 seconds left in the first quarter. However, the Titans were forced to punt. Punter Henry Lee dropped back to kick, but there was a bad snap. Lee picked up the ball and scampered to the 29, but he was well short of a first down.

“I was just talking to my mom and my dad and my wife and reflected on what the first game I coached at Northwest, at least going into the same thing,” Wallace said. “It’s simple, basic stuff that we don’t execute on right now, and I think it’s just because it’s a new defense. You’re looking at a new defense with a new offense scheme. We’ve just got to get more confident and more comfortable in it.”

A.C. Reynolds took possession at the West Forsyth 29 and scored four plays later after Lewis caught an 8-yard pass from Craig with 7:36 left in the second quarter to make it 6-0. Rossi Santelia converted the extra-point kick to extend the lead to 7-0. 

“We were making mistakes on that drive,” Laws said. “We just had a couple guys make some plays there. It’s just so, so many mistakes. We’ve just got to fix that.”

The Titans’ defense caused another turnover with 2:51 remaining in the second quarter after Eldridge intercepted Craig and started their possession at the Rockets’ 36-yard line. Four plays later, Paige caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Rice with 1:37 left on the clock.

Rice finished 9-of-22 passing with one interception and 116 yards and a touchdown.

“Great double move,” Wallace said of the touchdown. “Darell — a little hitch-and-go. We saw they were playing hard down, and they were playing inside leverage, really hard inside leverage. And we just trying to get some stuff going early and we weren’t connecting on it. And then we called a double move.”

Instead of going for the point-after kick, Wallace spread the offense for a two-point conversion try. Rice took the snap, blazed up the middle and converted to give the Titans an 8-7 lead.

“I’ve done it for about two years now (conversion),” Wallace said. “We started dabbling about 2 and a 1/2 years ago. We fully committed the last two years on it. And that one, our kids have fun with it.”

Neither team was able to do much offensively in the second half. A.C. Reynolds took over at its own 29 with 2:12 remaining. Facing fourth down with 4 seconds remaining, Craig dropped back to pass, but he was intercepted by Caleb David to seal the win.

“We were just looking to get off the field,” David said. “Davion Eldridge, No. 44, came up with two big plays in the backfield, two big sacks. So, he set us up for the Hail Mary. I just knew they had to throw it deep.”

Craig finished 13-of-22 passing for 95 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. A.C. Reynolds finished with 171 total yards. West Forsyth finished with 163 yards.

“I was just back peddling, and I saw the guy come across my face. And I knew you had to throw it there because everything else was covered,” David said. “So, I just came down the field, and I didn’t think I was going to get it at first, but I hit him and caused (the interception), so it worked out.”

It may not have been the prettiest of wins, but a win is a win. And West Forsyth will try to go 2-0 next week when it travels to Midway to face Oak Grove.

“You know, one-point games. You know we’re going to play better,” Wallace said. “I know we will, moving forward. But we pulled off a one-point game, which you need to do if you’re going to play – A, into playoff time, and championship time, and play deep in playoffs.”