For all the marbles: West Forsyth, East Forsyth to clash Friday night in Clemmons for the Central Piedmont 4-A championship
Published 8:30 am Wednesday, October 25, 2023
By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier
No matter what it’s about, there’s something special about East vs. West or North vs. South.
That certainly will be the case at Jerry Peoples Stadium in Clemmons as East Forsyth faces off against West Forsyth in a winner-take-all football game to decide the Central Piedmont 4-A championship this week.
East Forsyth (8-1, 5-1) is coming off a 42-12 win last Thursday against rival Glenn, and West Forsyth defeated Reynolds 54-14 to set up this de facto championship.
“I guess it’s like the old school,” said first-year Coach Kevin Wallace of West Forsyth. “I guess you go back years where it was just like two schools in the county — North, South, East, West. So, in these longer-standing rivalries, there’s a lot of history between both schools. It spikes peoples’ interests a little bit more.”
In addition to the rivalry, it’s also senior night for the Titans, with 22 players being honored.
“A bunch of people will be coming to watch this thing,” Wallace said. “There’s a lot of excitement. I mean, our kids, we’ve got to keep them and realize, you know, it’s a game.
“There are extra implications, but it’s not the end of the world. And we’ve got to focus on getting better this week and not worry about who we’re playing and worry about us getting better, and it will take care of the outcome.”
On the other side of the county in Kernersville, this isn’t Coach Todd Willert’s first rodeo in this rivalry.
“It’s East vs. West, man,” he said. “It’s one of those things that’s a great rivalry. It’s not a mean one. Some rivalries kind of get bad, you know, and I think it’s been a good one, but it gets turned up another notch when you’re playing for a conference title.”
East Forsyth has not lost in this rivalry since 2019. However, the two teams didn’t play in the spring of 2021 because of COVID-19. And with a quirk in the schedule, East Forsyth won 53-7 last year in the regular-season finale, and just one week later, in the first round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs, the same two teams met again, and East Forsyth won 49-0.
“It’s still a motivation for our kids because our kids that were on that field last year, they still remember it,” Wallace said. “So, when you talk to them, you can see on their face a little bit, you know, it matters, and it hurt them last year. And they want a different outcome.”
Some things in the last couple of weeks had to break the right way for this game to mean even more than it normally would. Davie County (6-3, 4-2) was sitting pretty in the driver’s seat for the conference title after defeating East Forsyth 41-28 on Sept. 22.
However, Davie County lost to Mount Tabor 35-34 on Oct. 6. On the same night, Reagan (3-6, 3-3) defeated West Forsyth 35-26, meaning that if Davie County were to defeat West Forsyth in Mocksville on Oct. 13 Davie County would win the conference if it won out.
That didn’t happen. West Forsyth defeated Davie County 50-42, putting West Forsyth and East Forsyth in a tie for first place. Both West Forsyth and East Forsyth won easily last week.
“I’m just excited that we got this opportunity,” Willert said. “All we can do is control what we can do is win out, and hopefully, some people in the league will help us. And maybe we’ll get to the point by the end of the year. And sure enough, it all worked out our way, so now we’ve got to kind of take advantage of what the other schools did for us.”
So many facets to this game and rivalry make it special. Another is what Willert, who is in his 21st season as head coach at East Forsyth, and Adrian Snow, who resigned last December as head coach at West Forsyth, have done at their respective schools.
“I know Kevin. I’ve known Kevin for a long time,” Willert said. “You know, he’s a great offensive coach. He’s a great coach, period. It will be different, you know, just because my relationship with Adrian had grown and gotten so good. Kevin and I have a great friendship. We talk almost daily, too. But I think it was a lot different because we hated each other so much at one time.
“And Kevin and I have always been friends. So, that’s the major difference. Kevin and I have been friends. It took me and Adrian a few years to actually like each other and not spit on each other.”
Wallace saw Willert, who helped the Eagles win the NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship in 2017 and 2018 when he was the offensive coordinator at Glenn, as well as being the head coach at Northwest Guilford for the past six years.
“He’s done a great job over the 21 years,” Wallace said. “He’s done a great job. It took him a while to build it. That’s the hard thing in this age of athletics — people wanting a quick fix, and they want the immediate success. And that’s not usually what happens. And so, you’ve got to build it, and he’s built it over the years. They’ve done a great job, and they’ve won two state championships in the last six years, I think it’s been. And they’re a top-10 every year. They’ve got good players, and they’ve good coaches.
“Coming in, that’s where we want to be, and we see ourselves being there at some point. And this could be a big springboard to future success.”
One thing the rivalry has done is help with the quality of football within the county, especially with the seven Forsyth County schools within the Central Piedmont 4-A.
“Our conference is so balanced,” Willert said. “In all reality, we’ve got a bunch of really good head coaches in this conference. I think that’s what makes this conference so good. When you’ve got so many good head coaches, you strive to be as good as them. It’s like anything. You want to be as good as the next person. There’s a lot of high standards throughout our conference.”
The Eagles have a stout defense, and they’ll be trying to stop running back Caman Chaplin. According to Willert, defensive end Robbie Whitney (6-foot, 165 pounds, Jr.) will be an integral part of the defense, as well as senior Michael Mullins (6-2, 275, defensive line) and senior Nigel Gay (5-10, 165, cornerback).
“We’ve got some things. We hope we can slow him down,” Willert said. “You know, I don’t think you can stop a guy like that, but you hope you can slow him down. You need to take away some other things. But we’ve got some wrinkles, hopefully, to slow him down. You can’t stop guys like him, especially with their big offensive line. He’s a great running back, but they’ve got a really good o-line, too. So, that battle is going to be very key between our d-line and their o-line.”
On offense, East Forsyth has one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the county. Junior Bryce Baker, who has committed to play at North Carolina, is 6-3, 190 pounds and transferred during the summer from Walkertown. Baker is 155-of-231 passing for 2,208 yards, 28 touchdowns and three interceptions.
“He can throw it,” Wallace said of Baker. “He’s thrown for a lot of yardage. He’s got two outside receivers that are really good. And there’s a reason why he’s a junior commit, and he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the state.”
The Eagles are led by three receivers — senior Josh Alston (6-4, 190), junior JP Gilchrist (6-0, 175), and sophomore Jaire Richburg (6-2, 170). At running back, senior Brandon Sutton (5-8, 175), junior Jaylin Murry (5-10, 170), junior Jeremiah McRae (5-6, 170), and junior Laurence Riggs III (5-9, 190) all carry the load.
“(Baker’s) doing a great job throwing the ball, but he does have three great wide receivers,” Willert said. “And we’ve got great running backs…So, we use like seven to eight different guys offensively that can score at any time. (If) you look at our box scores and our season stats, we don’t have one guy that has 20 touchdowns. We have guys that have eight, nine, 10 — we’ve got a bunch of guys that, and that makes it hard on defenses.”
With all the talent that will be on the field Friday night and all the ramifications that the game itself has, there is a silver lining no matter which team wins. The Titans and Eagles will be in next week’s first round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs when the pairings are announced on Saturday.
“We should be hosting a home playoff game no matter what,” Wallace said. “And it just depends. We win, we’ll host more — probably two to three, possibly. If you lose, you’re probably on the road the second week.”