Cumming, Ga - Frank Hepler accepted the Forsyth Central head coaching job the same year the Bulldogs moved up two classifications into Region 5-AAAAAAA. It took two-and-a-half seasons for Hepler's team to finally notch a region win, last week's nail biting 24-20 victory on the road at Raider Valley against North Forsyth.
"We moved up to 7-A a couple of years ago and the kids have just been playing their butts off ever since," said Hepler after the Bulldogs' big win. "Hopefully they believe they belong now. They've gotta believe in victory."
It's still early in region play, but the Bulldogs (5-1) are tied atop the standings with Milton and South Forsyth, employing a stingy defense that allows an average of just seven points per game. Inside linebacker Anthony Persichetti has been through the difficult times, and says that's what makes this season special.
"When we were 0-10 (last season) it was tough," the senior told High 5 Sports. "We came together and made a decision to work hard, prepare right, and throughout the offseason and regular season we've been working and it's really paid off."
Forsyth Central has only played one team with a winning record, the first-year Denmark Danes, who narrowly defeated the Bulldogs 7-3 in a defensive battle. Difficult region games with Milton, South Forsyth and Lambert remain and this week's opponent, West Forsyth, will be motivated to beat Forsyth Central in order to salvage what's been a miserable season for the Wolverines (1-5). They'll also be playing against Hepler, who started the West Forsyth football program back in 2007, leading the Wolverines to a 51-18 record in seven seasons at the school.
The atmosphere is sure to be electric as Forsyth Central goes for their second region win behind a group of upperclassmen who seem to have matured at just the right time.
"It's more than anything for our senior class," said offensive lineman Garrett Nash. "We want to prove ourselves to our team, our school and our county."
The Bulldogs' turnaround from a winless 2017 season earned them a place on the High 5 Sports Facebook poll. From there, the Forsyth Central fan base voted nearly 4,000 times to beat four other schools and claim their first Hand Trophy, which will be presented at a live Thursday morning pep rally on Good Day Atlanta.