CUMMING, Ga. – In the end, West Forsyth simply had too much talent and depth for a gritty Johns Creek team to handle.
But after the Gladiators’ 37-16 loss at West Forsyth last Friday night, Johns Creek’s coaches and players could look back at the game and wonder how much two plays affected the outcome.
The first of the two critical plays occurred late in the second period, with Johns Creek holding a 16-3 lead against the unbeaten and state-ranked Wolverines.
Johns Creek had just stuffed West Forsyth on three straight plays from the Gladiators’ 1-yard line, and quarterback Skye Overton nearly broke a huge run on the next play before being tackled after an 18-yard gain.
But Overton threw a pass he would dearly love to have back, with the Wolverines intercepting at the Gladiators’ 25. West Forsyth scored with less than 25 seconds remaining in the half to cut the deficit to 16-10.
Johns Creek took a quick 6-0 lead in the first quarter on a 61-yard run by Overton, who rushed for 161 yards on 25 attempts and passed for 224 yards. Next, the Gladiators drove to the 13-yard line and stalled. So kicker Kyle Fowler came on and made a 30-yard field goal for a 9-0 lead.
Chase Solomon, who had 103 hard-fought yards, added a 22-yard burst to put the Gladiators ahead 16-3 midway through the second period.
The Gladiators had 497 yards of offense, putting together scoring drives of 82, 79 and 80 yards on their first three possessions. But they weren’t able to turn yards into points in the second half, and West Forsyth pulled away.
The Wolverines scored touchdowns on five straight possessions and held the Gladiators scoreless in the second half. But Johns Creek did not go down meekly.
Trailing 23-16, the Gladiators mounted a sustained drive that began with a successful fourth-down conversion from their 22. Facing another fourth-and-1 from the West Forsyth 15, Johns Creek tried a bit of trickery, but the Wolverines were prepared and stopped the play.
Two plays later, West Forsyth broke a 72-yard run – one of five gains of 50 yards or more by the Wolverines – leading to the clinching touchdown.
The next two Johns Creek possessions ended on interceptions after the Gladiators drove inside the West Forsyth 25, and the game ended with a Johns Creek receiver tackled one yard shy of a touchdown.
“We made some mistakes, coaching and physically,” Johns Creek coach Mike Cloy said of his team’s first loss. “Offensively, we had too many penalties and turnovers to win a game like this.
“They’re good.” he said of West Forsyth. “And they two-platoon. We don’t quite have that luxury.”
The Wolverines’ advantage in depth was a factor in the second half, but an outstanding Johns Creek defense was never really able to slow down West Forsyth’s sideline-to-sideline offense.
West Forsyth amassed 604 yards total offense, averaging more than 11.5 yards per play. On their first three series, the Wolverines gained 205 yards but came away with just three points. Johns Creek bowed up when it had to, making an interception and stopping two drives that were 5 yards or less from the goal line.
The Wolverines’ three primary rushing threats all went over 100 yards, combining for 461 yards on 41 carries. Each had at least one gain of 50 yards or longer. West Forsyth passed sparingly, but hit a 79-yarder to set up one score, and added a 6-yard touchdown from A.J. Erdely to Jake Wieczorek.
Erdely rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns, one on a 52-yard run, while Wieczorek added 191 yards on 12 carries, including a 60-yard score.
Johns Creek, 2-1 in Region 6-AAAAAA and 5-1 overall, is at home Friday night against Lambert (also 2-1 and 5-1), looking to break out of a four-way tie for second in the region behind West Forsyth (3-0, 6-0).