EAST BEND - The Falcons turned in a “gutsy” performance in Friday night’s home opener against reigning 2AA state champion West Stokes, but dropped a heart-breaker, 14-6.
“All losses are tough losses, particularly when you play your heart out like we did,” head coach Chris Johnson said. “We’re getting closer; we’re right there at it. We just have to get over the hump.”
The Forbush defense limited the Wildcats’ potent offense for much of the game, but the offense was unable to capitalize and find the endzone.
Led by Nick McDonald’s 13 total tackles - that included three tackles for loss and a sack - the Falcons held West to 260 yards of total offense on the night. Cody Shrewsbury added 11 tackles, while Zach Brock and Dylan Edwards recorded a sack.
Quarterback Bennett Winslow powered the Falcons with 164 yards through the air on 17-of-32 passes. Senior tight end Matthew Stanley hauled in eight of those passes for a team-high 98 yards in a huge game, while G.C. Parks grabbed six catches for 28 yards.
“Bennett played a big game for us tonight, didn’t he?” Johnson explained. “He really came of age and matured a lot and is really making some great throws. Obviously Stanley and Parks did a great job of running routes and making the catch. We have to continue doing that. And if we can, we might get us some wins under our belt here soon.”
Forbush’s running game was completely shutdown, running for -3 yards on 14 carries, despite 32 yards on the ground from Tyler Holden.
The only points the Falcons mustered were off two 30-yard Alex Torres field goals.
West Stokes got on the board first with a seven-yard touchdown run by Austin Long after a long punt return.
Forbush answered with a methodical drive down the field, highlighted by a Stanley diving catch down the right sideline. Torres capped the drive with a 31-yard field goal to trim the lead to 7-3.
After a Wildcat punt to the 33, the Falcons seemed content to run out the clock and head to the locker room down four. But Holden broke free on second down and darted 35 yards to the WS 32-yard line. A pass interference call set up Torres’ second field goal of the half that swung momentum to the home team.
West grabbed momentum back when Long scored on a 53-yard run to extend the lead to 14-6 to open the second half.
Forbush was unable to capitalize on three Wildcat fumbles and 18 penalties in the second half. Two promising drives stalled deep in WS territory, one on a Winslow interception in the endzone.
After punting with 3:44 left on the clock, the Falcon defense was unable to hold as West ran out the clock to hold on for the 14-6 victory.
“A game like this says that we’re a gutsy team, and we’re doing it short-manned,” Johnson explained. “Every team has to deal with injuries, but when you’re limited in your numbers like we are, it hurts more than it does to some teams. We’re counting on young kids to play big roles for us, and they really aren’t ready for it. But we’re throwing it at them and they’re handling it well.
“People like Zach Ragsdale, Tyler Holden, Cody Hayden are all sophomores that we are asking to play big roles for us and they stepped it up tonight. I’m proud of their performances,” he added.
The Falcons are looking for their first win of the season when they take on Yadkin County rival Starmount Friday in the annual Unifi Bowl. Forbush is riding a five-game losing streak in the series into the matchup in Boonville.
“We’re going to have to overcome our lack of speed against them,” Johnson said. “For us to play good against Starmount, we’re going to have to keep the faith and keep believing in our game plan and good things will come shortly. It would be a big morale boost to pull it off.”
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.