County pride: East Forsyth knocks off West Forsyth to win Central Piedmont 4-A crown
Published 5:21 pm Saturday, October 28, 2023
By Jay Spivey
For Clemmons Courier
The Central Piedmont 4-A football championship came down between two heavyweight teams in Forsyth County – East Forsyth and West Forsyth.
East Forsyth came from behind with the help of quarterback Bryce Baker to fly past West Forsyth 45-35 Friday night at Jerry Peoples Stadium to win the conference championship.
East Forsyth (9-1, 6-1) wrapped up its second consecutive conference championship.
It was a tough pill to swallow for West Forsyth (7-3, 5-2), which came in knowing it was a winner-take-all game on its home field.
“There’s a reason why they’ve won a lot of conference championships and the success they’ve had,” Coach Kevin Wallace of West Forsyth said. “We’re not there yet. And we need to practice longer, we need to lock in longer, and we need to get back to attention to detail.
“We’ve got to make plays when times are called. You know, players (have) got to step up to make plays, and, you know, in that type of game, we needed to make some more plays than we did to win, so that’s where we’re at. And we’ll come back to the drawing board and crack down on the attention to detail and be better for next week (in the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs).”
As for East Forsyth, it has almost made winning the conference an annual thing.
“This is great because no one, we were kind of underdogs all year, you know,” Coach Todd Willert of the Eagles said. “So, it’s kind of been a weird role for us, but we kind of liked it. It’s kind of nice not having the target on your back and wanted to prove some people wrong tonight, and our boys came in and played hard. The coaches were awesome. Just excited for everybody in the Eagle program and Eagle nation.”
West Forsyth didn’t win the conference, but it will still be playing next week. The NCHSAA announced its football pairings for the tournament, which starts next week, and West Forsyth is the No. 11 seed in the Class 4-A West playoffs and will be playing host to No. 22 Charlotte Ardrey Kell (7-3) next Friday in the first round of the Class 4-A playoffs.
“That’s what I told them in the locker room. I said, ‘Guys, it was on your fingertips, and you touched it,’” Wallace said. “We just didn’t make it happen. And I told the seniors it’s up to them. They can either choose to fold right now and let this spiral into a first-round loss next week, or you come back with vengeance and show to another team that you were better than what you just did.”
East Forsyth was named the No. 7-seed in the Class 4-A West and will play host to No. 26 Greensboro Page (5-5) next Friday.
“That’s our goal,” Willert said. “I don’t care who we have at East Forsyth. Our goal is to win a conference title whether we’re young, new guys, graduate a bunch of guys. We’ve been graduating guys since ‘08. People are writing us off, and we keep on winning. So, this was a lot tougher. Probably one of the sweeter ones.
“They’re a great team. Kevin’s done a great job over here. Just a great night to celebrate.”
The loss was a particularly bitter pill to swallow for senior Caman Chaplin, who finished Friday’s game rushing 31 times for 283 yards and three touchdowns, and he also caught two passes for 44 yards. Chaplin has never defeated the Eagles in his four years with the Titans.
“It’s just annoying,” Chaplin said. “We had it. We’ve got to finish. That’s really it. I tried everything that I know.”
Baker, a junior who has committed to play at North Carolina, finished Friday night 20-of-25 passing for 342 yards and five touchdowns, and he also rushed nine times for 61 yards.
“It feels great,” Baker said. “We put in the work all week, and the guys came out, and we executed. That was the big word for this week. Like I said, we executed, and it feels great.”
The Eagles led 17-15 at halftime, but the Titans quickly took the momentum in the second half. Chaplin scored on a 6-yard touchdown run with 3:37 left in the third quarter to take a 21-17 lead, Kosta Dupuy’s extra-point kick failed.
The Eagles fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and TJ Fergus of the Titans recovered. The Titans took advantage of the fumble recovery and scored on a 42-yard touchdown run by Chaplin with 1:51 left in the third quarter to help push the lead to 28-17.
“I thought we were starting to click offensively,” Wallace said. “You know, we just can’t get behind because when we get behind the way our offense works, it’s not designed.
It didn’t take long for the Eagles to respond. Baker threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Alston, and Jalen Caldwell caught a pass from Baker for two points to trim the lead to 28-25.
“Coach (Ron) Horton (offensive coordinator at East Forsyth) calls a great play, and we go for the jugular,” Willert said. “And get that 90- or 80-yard pass was huge. Got us right back and got the momentum back.”
The Eagles kept the momentum early in the fourth quarter, and Baker threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Jaylin Murry with 10:58 remaining to help take a 32-28 lead.
Murry caught another touchdown pass, his third of the game, on a 15-yard pass from Baker with 5:08 remaining to help extend the lead to 39-28.
“A lot of played together growing up,” Baker said. “We believe in each other. Yeah, we have our ups and downs, but the leadership on this team has progressively grown. And that’s a big part of us, and that chemistry just propels us in tough times.”
The Titans answered with a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bert Rice to Darell Paige. Rice finished 10-of-23 passing for 123 yards and one touchdown.
“We’ve got to stay in the game from the get-go, and if we’ve got to come back – we made some plays there, but we didn’t make enough plays. We didn’t make them quick enough,” Wallace said. “If we were able to make some plays quicker in the drive, then I think there’s a little bit more time on the clock. So, we’ve got to make plays. We didn’t make enough plays tonight.”
Any chance West Forsyth had of coming back was erased late in the fourth quarter. East Forsyth had fourth down and 6, but instead of attempting a field goal, Willert elected to go for it. Baker rolled to his right and threw a pass in the back right corner of the end zone to JP Gilchrist for a 26-yard touchdown with 41 seconds remaining, but Ridge Whisnant’s extra-point kick was blocked.
“Bryce Baker is a great player, but we’ve got so many weapons,” Willert said. “I mean, our run game is awesome. Our pass game is awesome, but understand, (Baker) stays very clean because we have one heck of an o-line, and the whole line played with a chip on their shoulder because they felt like they were overlooked this week.”
East Forsyth outgained West Forsyth 592-431.
“(Baker) is a (heck) of a player,” Wallace said. “I mean, there’s a reason why he’s a four-star and why he’s going to UNC and all that stuff and all the offers. He’s a heck of a player.”