Bounce-back game: West Forsyth looks to regroup in Friday’s first-round playoff against Charlotte Ardrey Kell

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 2, 2023

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

West Forsyth didn’t finish the regular season with a Central Piedmont 4-A football championship, but there is still much to play for.

East Forsyth defeated West Forsyth 45-35 Friday night at Jerry Peoples Stadium in Clemmons to capture the winner-take-all championship, but the season starts anew for many teams; the NCHSAA announced its brackets for the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs, which starts this Friday and is a six-marathon for the teams that reach the four championships.

West Forsyth (7-3, 5-2) was named the No. 11 seed in the NCHSAA Class 4-A West and is scheduled to play host to No. 22 Charlotte Ardrey Kell (7-3) in Friday’s first round.

“We’re going to have to get (the players) back emotionally,” Coach Kevin Wallace of West Forsyth said. “They were very upset, but we’re going to send them a message just to kind of get them back focused on what we’ve got to do. And there’s still a lot of football ahead of us.”

The psychology of a coach who came so close to winning a conference championship is pretty straightforward: convincing the Titans that each team is 0-0.

“They’ve got to think it’s a brand-new season. Whatever we did in the past doesn’t matter. Whatever we did last week doesn’t matter,” Wallace said. “We’ve got to learn from what we did. It’s a whole new season. It’s a whole new time.”
Ardrey Kell didn’t technically play for a winner-take-all championship Friday night against Charlotte Palisades, but it still had plenty to play for. Ardrey Kell defeated Palisades 28-3 and finished second in the So Meck 4-A with just one conference loss – 32-16 on Oct. 6 against Charlotte Myers Park, which finished 5-0.

“We’re excited to finish the season strong with a few wins,” Coach Greg Jachym of the Knights said. “The last couple games, we talked about having to win out to make sure we secured a good playoff seed and kind of treated it like the playoffs the last couple weeks of the season.

“So, we’re excited to have an opportunity. And we always like getting out of Charlotte in the playoffs because you’re getting to see a team you’re not as familiar with and go somewhere you’ve never been before and hope to give the kids a good experience on the way up there.”

According to Jachym, who has been the head coach at Ardrey Kell for the past five seasons and has coached there since 2007, it has over 3,600 students, making it the largest high school in North Carolina. In addition, Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and surrounding counties are gold mines for players.

“There’s a lot of talent in Charlotte,” Jachym said. “I think this year there’s a little bit more parity than there has been the last few years. But you look at the conference that West Forsyth’s in, they’ve got a ton of talent up there, too. They’ve got some really good football teams, and (I’m) starting to watch a lot of film. They play really good football up there, too. So, it’s going to be a challenge for us.”

Even though these two schools are over 90 miles apart, they do have a common opponent – Weddington, which is the No. 1 seed in Class 4-A West. West Forsyth lost 44-22 at Weddington on Sept. 1, and Ardrey Kell lost to Weddington 35-0 on Aug. 25 at home.

“We don’t have that film,” Jachym said. “They probably have our film from that game because they played them after we did. So, we didn’t get to see them play against Weddington. But obviously, Weddington is a really good team, one of the top teams in the state, so you kind of look at that just as a comparison for a common opponent.”

For West Forsyth to win and advance to next week’s second-round game between the winner of Friday’s game between No. 27 Alexander Central at No. 6 Matthews Butler, it will have to have another dynamic game from running back Caman Chaplin. Chaplin finished Friday’s loss against East Forsyth with 283 yards on 31 carries with three touchdowns.

“Caman’s going to be our No. 1 ball puncher,” Wallace said. “We have too many RPOs on for them (receivers) for them not to think they’re going to get it. With all Caman’s runs, last week, knowing that we were getting a lot of true Cover-0 (coverage), and we weren’t beating Cover-0, that was probably the most they (the offensive line) truly had to block on run plays all year. And it still was probably about 50% of the run plays. They weren’t even that drastic.”

To highlight Wallace’s point, quarterback Bert Rice of the Titans was 10-of-23 passing for 123 yards and one touchdown against the Eagles.

“They know where certain things open up, and when it’s called upon them, especially at the end, we’ve got to make plays,” Wallace said. “Third downs, we’ve got to be better and make plays. We’ve got make contested catches right now. And we’ve got to put the ball – A) we didn’t make the catches and B) our ball placement is just soft. Now, it’s small, but it makes it easier for the receiver to catch like that.”

Ardrey Kell is fully aware of how dynamic Chaplin has been this season. Chaplin, who missed the first game against AC Reynolds because of an injury and only played the first quarter against Parkland because West Forsyth was so far ahead, has 2,003 yards on 201 carries this season with 30 touchdowns. He also has 326 yards receiving on 21 catches with two touchdowns.

“He’s a special player, obviously,” Jachym said. “Over 2,000 yards on the season. He’s what makes their offense go. He’s a really impressive player. He has really good vision and balance, and once he gets out in the open, you don’t see too many people tracking him down.”

Jachym said the Knights’ defense is based on a 3-4, but they have multiple looks.
“Defensively, I think they’re very multiple,” Wallace said. “Multiple scheme-wise, they’re a 3-4, but they give different things from there. Bring some pressure, kind of play off-coverage. I wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t play us with how East played us. We’re going to have to find some better answers and better playmakers to make plays in that situation when that comes about.”

The Titans have one of the most dynamic and physical offensive lines in the area.
“We’re usually going to be smaller than the o-line play, so we try to use movements and speed to help us up front,” Jachym said.

Like many teams, the Knights use a Spread offense with a balance in rushing and passing. Three quarterbacks combined for 1,838 yards passing on 154-of-274 passing with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. They’ve rushed for 1,039 yards on 279 carries and nine touchdowns. Senior Jake Davids leads the Knights with 833 yards rushing on 195 carries and three touchdowns. Junior Ben Kirsch (725 yards, seven touchdowns) and senior Chance Bryant (432 yards, six touchdowns).

Quarterback Gavin Adams, a junior at Adrey Kell, hurt his collarbone a few weeks ago and is out for the season. He passed for 1,213 yards on 100-of-184 passing and 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions. Senior Will Ryland took over for Adams since the injury. Ryland is 53-of-88 passing for 615 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.

“(Ryland) has been doing a really good job. Really good games the last two weeks, so we’re confident in him,” Jachym said. “He’s more than capable of keeping our offense going the right direction.”

If West Forsyth can contain Adams and the rest of Ardrey Kell’s players, plus erase the bad tastes in its mouths after the East Forsyth loss, maybe it can advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2019 when it defeated Reagan in the second round.

“I told them in the locker room after the game, you know, it’s your challenge. You guys decide right now. Are you guys complacent with 7-3 and losing in the first round of the playoffs, or do you want to win to win a playoff game, which hasn’t been done in four years?” Wallace said. “And that’s the challenge to them. What do they want to do? They’ve got to decide in that locker room because the coaches are going to come in here and all that stuff, so we’re going to be ready to prepare and everything. But it’s annoying.”