Seasons of change: West Forsyth, Parkland have shown marked improvement since last year’s game

Published 3:00 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2023

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

Much has happened to both West Forsyth and Parkland since they both played each other in a football game.

The two teams played last Sept. 23, 2022, at Jerry Peoples Stadium in Clemmons, with West Forsyth winning 52-0, and almost exactly a year to the day, the two teams will meet again Friday night at Deaton-Thompson Stadium.

Since the end of last season, Coach Derek Bryant of Parkland was let go after going winless, and Coach Adrian Snow of West Forsyth resigned after going 4-7. Now, Derrick Sharpe has taken over as head coach at Parkland, and Kevin Wallace is the new coach at West Forsyth.

At least early on, the new coaching changes are working. Parkland is 3-1 after losing its Central Piedmont 4-A opener 24-20 last Friday at Glenn. West Forsyth is also 3-1 overall, but it routed Mount Tabor 40-14 last Friday in its conference opener at Jerry Peoples Stadium.

“They made some plays against Glenn, and Glenn had to pull it out at the end,” Wallace said. “You know, they’re flying around. I think they do some multiple things that will cause a little bit of issues, but we’ll really dive into more of how we’re going to attack it.”

Sharpe might be a new head coach in Forsyth County, but he’s not new to Forsyth County. The previous two seasons, Sharpe was at North Forsyth as the quarterbacks coach. In spring 2021, because of COVID-19, he was the wide receivers coach at Mount Tabor, and in 2019, he was the offensive coordinator at Mount Tabor. In addition, Sharpe’s son, Tyeous, was the quarterback at Parkland and graduated in 2017.

“It kind of reminded me of 2014,” Sharpe said. “This is my second stint at Parkland. I was the offensive coordinator from 2014 to 2018. When I came in then with Coach (Martin) Samek (now the head coach at Corinth Holders) the team was 0-22, so it wasn’t anything I wasn’t accustomed to. I’d been there, done that. I preached that message to the kids. So, it wasn’t a surprise. I knew where we were. I knew what we were.

“I had some experience in being in that situation, and really it was about building relationships, building confidence and creating an environment in which kids think they can be successful.”

Parkland hasn’t had the toughest schedule, beating Lexington (3-2), Atkins (0-4), and Winston-Salem Prep (1-3) by a combined score of 99-51, which is quite an accomplishment after going winless last year.

“Our kids want it a little more,” Sharpe said. “They practice a little harder. They’re a little closer as a group. We’re trying to build a family environment at Parkland. I think our kids are buying into that. So, anytime you care about the guy next to you, the guys you’re playing with, you have a tendency of experiencing a little bit of success.

“But unfortunately, (Friday) night, we were on the short end. Our kids gave a great effort (Friday) night, and penalties hurt us. If we get those things cleaned up, I think I like our chances.”

In contrast, West Forsyth has had a brutal first four weeks of the season. It defeated Asheville Reynolds and Oak Grove in the first two weeks, lost to powerhouse Weddington in the third week, had a week off before conference play, and defeated Mount Tabor in the conference opener last Friday night.

“Our big concentration this week is we’re not looking past anybody,” Wallace said. “Every week, we preach to be 1-0, and we’ve got to worry about what we’ve got to do this week more than anything. That’s all that matters right now.”
Wallace said throughout practice this week that he’s going to have one message to convey to the Titans as they prepare to play the Mustangs.

“Good teams beat the teams they’re supposed to,” he said. “You’ve got to understand that you’re supposed to win this thing. They’re not going to lay down. We have to handle our business, and we have to do what we’re expected to, and play at our level, and not play down.

“And our kids are starting to learn that a little bit.”

Sharpe said the Mustangs run multiple offenses, primarily a spread with mostly no huddle. The offense is led by quarterback Riley Horton, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound junior.

“He’s a three-year starter for Parkland,” Sharpe said of Horton. “He’s played now 24 football games. He’s a great leader. He’s got a lot of great attributes. We’re excited to have Riley and him being under the helm for us.”

According to Sharpe, the Mustangs are aggressive defensively. They’ll need to be on Friday against a stout Titans offensive line.

“Defensively, we’re an attacking-style defense,” Sharpe said. “We try to play downhill, put pressure on the offense, put pressure on the quarterback. We’re really good up front. Tre Walker, he’s a (6-3) junior (defensive end). He’s in the ‘25 Class. He’s one of the top state leaders in sacks. I think he had three (Friday) night. And that three will take him to about 12 on the season.”

Running back Caman Chaplin finished last Friday’s game for West Forsyth against Mount Tabor with 154 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns. Also, quarterback Bert Rice finished 13-of-16 passing for 103 yards.

“We’ve always had a solid run game, but the fact that Bert was able to get better, and we were able to change some schemes and allow our wide receivers to be more fluid, that allows them to get more open, which allows the box to get more open for me,” Chaplin said. “We’re a more efficient team than we were last year.”

Rice also added a 3-yard rushing touchdown against Mount Tabor.

“His QBR (quarterback rating) had to be outrageous,” Wallace said. “You know, and I think he did a great job of operating. There were just one or two missed RPOs (run-pass option), but he’s getting better, more confident with it. You’re starting to see it, and we’re going to try and keep the tempo up because I think that really helps neutralize a lot of things and took Tabor out of it a little bit.

“So, we’re going to try and get on that. Tempo, people don’t understand, simplifies the offense, so it’s a handful of plays that just go.”