‘Survive and advance:’ Caleb David’s four touchdown runs, interception, propel No. 11 West Forsyth past No. 22 Charlotte Ardrey Kell

Published 3:28 pm Saturday, November 4, 2023

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

Friday night’s game between Charlotte Ardrey Kell and West Forsyth wasn’t pretty, but the message from West Forsyth was “survive and advance.”
That’s exactly what the No. 11-seeded Titans did as they held on to defeat the No. 22 Knights 32-15 Friday night at Jerry Peoples Stadium with the help of four touchdowns and an interception from Caleb David in the first round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs.
West Forsyth (8-3) led 18-0 after the first quarter, but Ardrey Kell (7-4) trimmed it to 18-15. However, David scored two late touchdowns to pull away.
“It got ugly in the second half,” Coach Kevin Wallace of the Titans said. “I’ve gone against those guys…The head coach (Greg Jachym) does a great job down there, so hats off to them. They came out in the second half ready to win the game. We’ve just got to calm down and play, and once we did, we were OK.”
West Forsyth will play at No. 6 Matthews Butler (10-1), which defeated No. 27 Alexander Central 49-7 Friday night.
“It is huge for us,” David said. “We haven’t won a playoff game here since 2019. My brother (Mack David) was playing back then, but we fell short to (Charlotte) Vance back then. But every year we’ve made the playoffs, we came up short in the first round. We haven’t had a playoff game here anyway, but we realize what it meant because we just had to come out on top.”
The way West Forsyth played in the first quarter it looked more like the game was headed toward a running clock (42-point lead at any point in the second half). Not many could’ve envisioned that Ardrey Kell had several chances to either tie or take the lead.
David scored on a 4-yard run with 9:41 left in the first quarter, but Kosta Dupuy’s extra-point kick was blocked to keep the West Forsyth lead at 6-0. It added to the lead to 5:22 left in the first quarter after quarterback Bert Rice threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Cruise, but Rice’s pass for two points failed.
David added a 3-yard touchdown run with 1:21 left in the first quarter, but Rice’s pass for two points failed. Rice finished 14-of-20 passing for 181 yards and one touchdown.
The Titans had a chance to extend the lead to 21-0, but as Dupuy lined up for a 25-yard field goal attempt with 4:38 left in the second quarter, the snap sailed high.
The Knights took possession and had an 11-play drive. However, Andrew Bontekoe’s 22-yard field goal attempt was blocked just before halftime.
“We left the one drive where we tried to go for the field goal but had a bad snap,” Wallace said. “So, that was really the first four drives of the game. Besides that, that’s one that we’d like to have back. It could’ve put us up 21, which would’ve been better. We missed the first extra points. That kind of put us behind, and tried to go for two on a couple ones.
“So, it was a funky first-half score. But we just had that one opportunity at the end. That was it. We only had the four drives, so…”
The momentum switched on the first play of the second half. Ardrey Kell had its own 32, and quarterback Will Ryland threw a lateral to running back Jake Davids. Davids threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to Chancellor Bryant with 11:41 left in the third quarter to help trim the lead to 18-7.
“We told our kids at halftime just to keep fighting,” Jachym said. “Our kids showed a lot of heart. They didn’t give up. You know, 18-0 in the first quarter they could’ve easily quit, and they didn’t. They came out and made it a ballgame. We told them we were going to take chances. We were going to shoot all of our bullets, and we did. We made it a ballgame.”
Ardrey Kell tried an onside kick after the touchdown, and Ryan Brenner of Ardrey recovered it.
“They came out (with) a funky formation on the first play – double pass – which I think was their fourth or fifth trick play of the game,” Wallace said. “And then they came out with an onside kick. We’d seen something similar to what they did, except they came in and ran it. This time, they went out and got nervous.”
The Knights took possession at the Titans’ 49 and scored nine plays later after Ryland threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ben Kirsch with 9:43 left in the third quarter. The Knights went for two and converted it after Kirsch caught a pass from Ryland to trim the lead to 18-15.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our kids for how they hung in there and fought,” Jachym said.
The Knights drove to the 1 with 4:11 left in the third quarter, but they were assessed a false-start penalty. That pushed them to the 6, and Jachym elected to attempt a 28-yard field goal.
Sean Davis blocked it with 3:07 left to preserve the Titans’ 18-15 lead.
“Give credit. We blocked two field goals, which was huge, also,” Wallace said. “That was 6 points on the field. There’s an 18-18 tie at one point, and Sean Davis blocked both. He’s done a great job.”
West Forsyth took over from there and went on a time-consuming drive. It went on a 16-play drive, and David scored his third touchdown on an 8-yard run with 8:48 left in the game to help take a 25-15 lead.
“We knew that they had that package,” Jachym said. “We knew he was a good back, too. So, yeah, we knew they were capable of that.”
David shined defensively on the ensuing possession. He intercepted Ryland’s pass in the end zone with a leaping grab with 7:44 remaining.
“Caleb played very well,” Wallace said. “Heck of an interception at the end. One-handed, reaching up, fully extended, unbelievable. He made some plays, tackles that we really needed, almost how well they’ve been at the beginning of the year.”
If the interception didn’t salt away the game, David’s next touchdown did. The Titans drove 80 yards, and David scored on a 17-yard run with 2:34 remaining to help extend the lead to 32-15.
David finished with 44 yards rushing on nine carries. The Titans finished with 244 yards rushing, including 100 from Caman Chaplin, on 41 carries.
“On that touchdown, I made, the fourth one, Coach Ferg, he was just like, ‘Just get the first down, get the first down,’” David said. “And I told him, and looked at him in the eyes, and said, ‘I’m scoring, I’m scoring.’
“And I did what I said, and I punched it in.”