Supreme control: No. 11 travels to No. 6 Matthews Butler in the second round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs, a series Butler has dominated

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 9, 2023

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

It’s almost a given that if you’re in the Western Region of the NCHSAA Class 4-A football playoffs and keep winning, you will eventually face a Charlotte-area team.

West Forsyth, the No. 11 seed in the West, will get to do that for the second time in as many weeks later this week when it travels to Matthews to face No. 6 Butler in the second round. West Forsyth just defeated No. 22 Charlotte Ardrey Kell 32-15 in the first round of the playoffs in Clemmons this past Friday. Butler (10-1) defeated No. 27 Alexander Central 49-7.

“They’re well coached. They’re fast,” Coach Kevin Wallace of West Forsyth said of Butler. “They play physical. So, you know, we’ve got to match that.”

The two schools haven’t faced each other much. This will be the fifth meeting between the two teams. Butler has dominated the series, winning the first four games by a combined 208-31, all in playoff games.

Wallace, who is in first season as head coach for the Titans (8-3), wasn’t coaching in any of the previous four games. However, he knows it’s going to take a maximum effort to defeat the Bulldogs.

“We’ve got to play sound football, and we’ve got to protect the football and create some turnovers,” he said. “You know, I think we can make them one-dimensional. If our defense can make them one-dimensional, it’ll be key to stopping them in making this change. I know there’s a chance of rain, so we’ll see what happens Friday.”

Butler won 41-8 in 2005 in Clemmons, won 70-16 in 2009 in Matthews, won 49-0 in Clemmons in 2012, and 48-7 in 2013 in Clemmons.

“I think we’re in great shape,” said Coach Brian Hales of Butler, who is in his 20th season there and his 13th as head coach. “You know, we through, I guess, a lull talent-wise for us anyway back in the late (2000) teens — around ‘17, ‘18 maybe. A couple of those years, we were a little bit thin.”

Butler finished 6-0 in the Southwestern 4-A conference, defeating Charlotte Independence by one game.

“Our numbers have gone down,” Haines said. “What was it? Four years ago, or five years ago, there was a shooting at the school (2018). And after that, we’ve lost a number of kids. And the charter schools have really started to take off.”

Much of what West Forsyth does on offense when it plays Butler might hinge on the head of running back Caman Chaplin. Chaplin, who has 2,003 yards rushing on 201 carries and 30 touchdowns, plus 326 yards receiving and two touchdowns, hurt his knee with 2:22 left in the third quarter. Wallace said they know more about Chaplin’s status as practice progresses throughout the week.

“We expect a loaded box, I think,” Wallace said of Butler. “They already show some of that on film with some loaded boxes against other teams. So, we’ve got to be able to block some stuff like that after … on some things.”

Despite Chaplin’s injury, he did finish with 100 yards rushing on 14 carries against Ardrey Kell.

“It starts with the running back,” Haines said of West Forsyth’s offense. “The kid’s fantastic. The way he runs, I know he’s listed at 175, 180 pounds, but he certainly plays like a kid who’s 200, 210 pounds. You know, he runs angry. He’s tough to bring down.

“You couple that with just a huge, huge, huge if I didn’t say huge enough, huge offensive line.”

Chaplin is an offensive catalyst, but Caleb David more than filled in admirably against Ardrey Kell. David finished with four touchdowns rushing and added an interception late in the game.

“First and foremost is we’ve got to figure out how to slow down that running game,” Haines said.

If Chaplin and Fergus aren’t dynamic enough, West Forsyth also has running back TJ Fergus, who finished with 81 yards on 16 carries against Ardrey Kell. Wallace hopes the receivers and quarterback Bert Rice will evolve just as they did against Ardrey Kell. Rice was 14-for-21 passing for 121 yards and a touchdown.

“Offensively, our receivers got to step up kind of how they did the other night and make a couple plays,” Wallace said. “And if we didn’t get as much of that from them against East (Forsyth in the final game of the regular season), and I think we need some of that to help the offense be a little bit more multiple and successful.”

One familiar face to many West Forsyth people is the defensive coordinator at Butler. Tripp Stone, who played at West Forsyth and is the son of former West Forsyth Coach Russell Stone, will be in charge of trying to stop West Forsyth’s offense.

According to Haines, the Bulldogs’ defense is led by linebacker Tyquan Rankin (5-foot-10, LB, Sr.).

“He is our defensive player of the year in the conference last year,” Haines said. “You know, he had two pick-sixes this past Friday, forced another fumble, had an 80-yard fumble return down in Atlanta against Langston Hughes. And he’s our team leader in tackles. He’s the emotion of the defense. But he’s hardly alone over there.”

In addition to Rankin, the Bulldogs have defensive end/linebacker Ian Coleman (6-2, 225, Jr.), defensive tackle Jadyn Farmer (6-5, 275, Jr.), linebacker Nio Espinoza (6-2, Sr.), linebacker Nick Darling (6-1, 215, Sr.) and cornerback Phillip Harris (6-2, 193, Sr.).
One common opponent the two teams have this season is Weddington. Weddington defeated West Forsyth 44-22 on Sept. 1, and Butler defeated Weddington 22-15 the following week.

“It was so early,” Wallace said. “You know, I think we’re going to see some different looks just based on they have a quarterback and a receiver that are really good. I think defensively, they’ll line up a little bit different. They’ll do some different things. It wasn’t just comparing what their score was or what our score was. I think there’s some other factors that go into that.”

Butler is led by quarterback Zachary Lawrence (6-1, 190., Jr.) who was 93-of-149 passing for 1,205 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Running back Jayden Williams (5-10, 200, Jr.), who rushed for 861 yards and six touchdowns. Dequadre Currence (5-10, 150, Jr.) is the leading receiver with 438 yards and four touchdowns.

“We’ve got a big, physical offensive line,” Haines said. “We’re going to be able to match up against them. So, from a scheme perspective, you know, I go back and look at what Ardrey Kell did with some of their things formationally, and I see some things that in very well to with what we do.”

Now that it’s survive-and-advance, as many coaches like to say in the playoffs, the Titans will have to face the tough task of playing on the road this week after playing Ardrey Kell at home.

“I thought our kids responded very well,” Wallace said. “But they were upset after the East game just will all the build-up and everything (for a Central Piedmont 4-A championship). We answered. I think we came back and played well. We weren’t uptight. We were actually pretty loose, which is, I think, a key thing for us this year.

“And besides the beginning of the third quarter, I thought we played really, really well.”