COAL MOUNTAIN, Ga - It might not be the battle between the states, but this civil war is as close to life-and-death as a football game can get in Forsyth County. The HIGH 5 Sports Game of the Week kicks off Friday at 7:30 p.m. as the North Forsyth Raiders (5-2) host cross-county rival South Forsyth War Eagles (6-1) in a key Region 5-AAAAAAA matchup. Both teams are undefeated in region play so far, and South is ranked fourth in the Georgia Sports Writers Association Class AAAAAAA Football Poll despite forfeiting a win against Pinecrest Academy earlier this week due to an ineligible player participating in the game played on August 25.
"The rivalry between the schools goes way back," said North Forsyth Athletic Director Scott Tilden. "Both teams get real excited for this one and it's pretty heated this year because both teams are 2-0 in the region so that ups the stakes that much more- it should be hotly contested."
Tilden says he expects a standing room only crowd on what's supposed to be a perfect weather night in Coal Mountain. Raiders head coach Robert Craft has his team playing solid football behind an improved offensive line coached by Cecil Flowe, who led the Parkview Panthers to 197 wins and four state championships during his 21 years at the Lilburn school.
"Nobody coaches with more fire than Cecil," Tilden told us."I was watching him the other day at practice and he looks like he's 25 out there!" Flowe's line, which features only one senior, is opening up holes for running backs like Bryson Trigg who's run for 200 yards in a game twice this season, and giving quarterback Ben Bales plenty of time to complete passes to a variety of targets. Bales is currently ranked as a top-ten passer in the state, throwing for 407 yards in last week's win over Lambert.
The War Eagles have an impressive quarterback of their own in 6"3' Cal Morris who replaced current Western Kentucky quarterback Davis Shanley, one of the most prolific signal callers in South Forsyth's history. Morris can throw it and tuck-and-run if necessary like he did last week in the War Eagles 21-13 win on the road at Milton. Cal is the son of South Forsyth offensive coordinator Troy Morris, so he was ready to step in as a senior and keep the points coming for the War Eagles who average close to 40 points per game in 2017.
"Cal was behind Davis Shanley, but I told everyone that this kid was going to shock the state with his ability," said South Forsyth Head Coach Jeff Arnette. "Being the OC's son he didn't have much choice. He's got a good group around him. We've got seven returning players on offense who had starts last season. Once you play on Friday nights it (experience) usually comes pretty quick."
On the defensive side of the ball, 4-year starter Ryan LaFlamme is all over the field, leading the War Eagles with 7.5 sacks so far this season. And while Raider free safety Honus Wagner's baseball card might not be worth over two million dollars, his big money plays on Friday nights are part of the reason North Forsyth has held two of their opponents to under 10 points.
In a very special pregame ceremony, both schools will honor the memory of former weightlifting coach Jim Bishop who passed away in August after a short battle with Pancreatic Cancer. Bishop was a legendary figure, holding jobs at various schools in the county, including both North and South Forsyth high schools. During his 30-year career, Bishop won several national weightlifting championships and coached a variety of other sports. His students would often stop by his neighborhood garage affectionately known as "The Gym" in order to get in some extra work after school.
Bishop's motto was "Bigger, Faster, Stronger". It will be interesting to see which of his former schools will succeed using his battle cry this Friday night in the latest edition of the civil war.