Warriors Best Forsyth Central with Thrilling Late-Game Comeback


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Warrior captains Robert Wooten, Alex Figueroa and Selah Morgan take to the field for the coin toss against Forsyth Central.

Did you make it?

With North Atlanta High School on fall break, not as many were able to make the Warrior game against Central Forsyth on October 9 at Grady Stadium.

Did you make it? Those who did make it witnessed a barnburner of a game that saw a furious late-game comeback by the Warriors who advanced to three wins for the season with a 39 to 33 overtime win over the region rival Bulldogs who were visiting from Cumming.

“I could not be prouder of these seniors and all our players,” said North Atlanta head football coach Jeremy Gainer. “It really says a lot about who they are and about what we’re trying to accomplish with this program.”

The Forsyth Central game was senior night, the last home game for many Warrior players who have seen their fair share of long seasons short on losses or hope. The evening saw plenty of scoring, gutsy play by junior quarterback Jack Ferguson, key catches by senior Ezra Naylor and other members of the receiving corps, key stops by a dogged Warrior defense, and clutch rushing touchdowns by senior running backs K.D. Welch and Julious Washington. “It was unforgettable to be down by so many and to be able to come back when we needed it,” Washington said.

Senior players said the closely contested game was as emotional as any game they’ve played. “It was way more than a game. The whole evening was more like a battle where we had to fight against long odds,” said senior center Robert Wooten. “Out on the field, there were moments when I told my brothers ‘I’ll go to war with you and you’ll do the same for me.’ No matter what the scoreboard says, this is a team that will always fight.”

The game’s first half was a back and forth affair. A quick game-opening Warrior drive marked by a succession of Ferguson passes led to the evening’s first score and signaled to those gathered that ongoing offensive fireworks would mark the evening. The Warrior defense was continually tested by Sabrian Howard, a powerful Bulldog running back who racked up big rushing yards. A late-in-the-half score by the Bulldogs meant the Warriors went into the locker room trailing 14 to 21 and with momentum shifting the visiting team’s way.

During halftime, Warrior seniors paraded on the field accompanied by their proud parents. The commemorative evening only fueled desire among players to forge on toward a possible victory for the evening. “This was our night and we just told ourselves we had to find some way to win,” Wooten said.

Despite this sentiment, Central Forsyth continued extending its lead and by the fourth quarter the Warriors were down 33 to 14. From the stands, the North Atlanta band continued to play fight songs. From the sidelines, the Warrior cheerleaders sought to revive spirits. But among more than a few Warrior fans, there was the deflating feeling that the team was headed for another loss.

Throughout the game, a succession of big North Atlanta offensive gains were called back by penalties and fans voiced strenuous displeasure at the seemingly over-active refereeing. “We kind of felt like the refs were against us, but we just had to put that aside and play on,” said team captain Joel Maldonado, a senior defensive and offensive lineman.

Senior leadership fueled the late-game comeback. Behind inspired blocking, Welch ran for a 20-yard touchdown run. After another defensive stop and a subsequent drive, the Warriors scored on another Welch rushing play. Late in the fourth quarter, senior safety Wyatt Hughes nabbed a clutch interception to give North Atlanta the ball for one more scoring chance. The team capitalized when Welch hauled in a 30-yard Ferguson pass in the end zone to tie the game at 33 with just 21 seconds left. A missed point after touchdown added to the evening’s suspense and sent the game to a tense overtime.

North Atlanta got the ball first on Central Forsyth’s 15-yard line. A well blocked rushing play saw Washington scamper in for a score untouched. The score – and another missed PAT – meant the score was 39 to 33.

The Bulldogs then got their chance to punch a score in from the 15-yard-line. With the game on the line, a stout Warrior defense foiled things for the visitors one last time. After Bulldog receiver caught the ball on the seven yard line, freshman safety Zach Beckton knocked the ball out of his hands and senior cornerback T.J. Delaney recovered to end the game and seal the Warrior victory. “All I was thinking was: ‘We won. We did it,’” said Delaney.

Players jumped into coaches arms. Seniors leapt for joy. Tears of relief and elation were shed. Emotions ran high after such an improbably victory on such a momentous night. “I’m so proud of these guys. We’ve gone through so much together and to get this win the way we did, on our senior night, it just meant everything,” Wooten said.

“It was insane the way we came back and got the win and the way it happened made it even more unforgettable,” said Ferguson

The win meant the Warriors – with their 3-win 4-loss record – have surpassed last year’s win total with three more games to go. Gainer said he’s aware that one victory does not a program turnaround make. For many years in succession the Warriors have won two games or less during fall campaigns. “This is a process, but that makes victories like this all the more sweet,” he said.

The Warriors take to the road in the coming week to play Kell on Friday, Oct. 23. A following game at North Springs takes place on Oct. 30 and the last game of the season is a region play in game on Nov. 6.

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Senior Football Players: Josh Johnston, wide receiver, Dartavious Davis, defensive end; Julious Washington, running back; Selah Morgan, linebacker; Ezra Naylor, wide receiver; K.D. Welch, running back; J.D. Davis, quarterback; Harris Perley, defensive back; T.J. Delaney, defensive back; Wyatt Hughes, safety, Charles Lunsford, wide receiver; Robert Wooten, center; Joel Maldonado, defensive and offensive guard; Kevonte Battle, defensive guard.