Change of football culture underway in East Bend

Matthew Gorry Sports Writer

September 19, 2013

EAST BEND - Despite coming up just short of knocking off fierce rival Starmount in Friday’s annual Unifi Bowl, Forbush head coach Chris Johnson believes the football culture in East Bend is drastically changing.

Just one year removed from a dismal 1-9 campaign, which included a 49-0 blowout defeat at the hands of the Rams, the Falcons have made strides to “earn respectability in the area.”

“Starmount has been the gold standard of football in this area the last 30 years,” Johnson explained following Friday’s heart-breaking 21-14 loss. “A lot of teams are intimidated by them when they step off the bus, and that’s been the case for us. But [Friday night], it wasn’t.

“We still have to get better and get into the position where we are on the other end of this, but I am very proud of how hard our kids played.”

The change of culture was evident even before Starmount’s Nick Gunnell kicked off the game at 7:30 Friday night.

The stands were packed at Falcon Stadium, as were the parking lots at the high school and middle school. Red-clad fans formed a 50-yard tunnel on the field that the Falcons ran on the field through, stretching from the endzone past midfield.

The rowdy crowd remained raucous throughout the game, erupting as Forbush battled back to knot the game at 14-all late in the fourth quarter on a wild Jordan Sawyers touchdown run and Brady Willard two-point catch.

However, Starmount answered with the go-ahead score with two minutes left, capping a thrilling 21-14 victory for the Rams’ seventh-straight victory in the rivalry series.

Despite the loss, Johnson credits a “strong nucleus of kids” for the turnaround in the program, which has already surpassed last seasons’ win total just three games in.

“We’re not doing anything different, we just have a strong nucleus of kids that say ‘doggonit, we’re going to be the class - the 2013 team, we’re going to be the class that gets Forbush the respectability,” he said.

“And they are making great efforts in striving towards that.”

Forbush, now 2-2 on the season, returns to the field Friday against former conference foe East Wilkes - the lone team the Falcons beat last year.

Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or mgorry@civitasmedia.com.