BOONVILLE — On Friday night under the lights in Yadkin County, the Starmount Rams and the Forbush Falcons brought a whole new level to the term “rivalry.” For the 21st annual Unifi Bowl, both teams came out fired up and put on a tough performance.
From the opening kick-off to the final play, the Falcons and Rams gave their fans something to cheer about. When it was all said and done, the Falcons came away with a 28-18 win over their in-county rival.
“We played pretty well,” said Forbush head coach Chris Johnson. “Starmount is a fine football team. Their record does not indicate how good they are. Anytime you beat a Starmount team you should be ecstatic about it, because they play hard and they play till the finish. Even though we had the lead, I never thought we had the game won until the last minute.”
The first plays of the game didn’t end up the way either team wanted. Forbush received the opening kick-off and was forced to punt as the Falcons went three-and-out. One of Forbush’s key players, Travon Martin, was hurt as he was returning the opening kick-off. Martin injured his ankle and was unable to return for the remainder of the game.
Starmount’s first drive saw the Rams throw an interception on first-and-10 from the 47-yard line. Trey Dezern was looking for an open Starmount player down the field, but his throw hit a Falcon and ended up in the hands of Myzeck Kurian. Kurian returned the ball to the 48-yard line and the Falcons took over.
Forbush was unable to advance down the field as thy once again went three-and-out and had to punt the ball away.
After the punt, Starmount started its on the 3-yard line and was able to come up with a first down. Dezern handed the ball off to Ethan Barnes who ran the ball for a 13-yard gain. Starmount ran two more plays before they turned the ball over with an interception.
On third-and-4, Brody Cagna was able to strip the ball away from Barnes, who bobbled the pass from Dezern. Cagna gave the Falcons a first down at the 22-yard line.
Although Forbush intercepted the ball, it was unable to capitalize off the turnover. Forbush’s quarterback, Casey Graham, was sacked by Jonah Pendergrass, which resulted in a loss of yards. The Falcons punted the ball away on fourth-and-21, and Starmount took over. The Rams’ drive lasted three plays before they punted the ball to the 45-yard line.
Forbush’s first touchdown came with less than four minutes left in the first quarter. On first-and-10 from the 45, Graham handed the ball off to Dillon Johnson, who ran the ball for a 30-yard gain. The next play saw Graham find Johnson once again, and he ran the ball in for a 15-yard touchdown. The extra point by Dasaun Dalton was good, as the two plays only took 50 seconds and the Falcons had a 7-0 lead.
With time running out in the first quarter, Starmount had one of its best drives of the night. The play started on the 9-yard line and the Rams were able to accumulate 43 yards before they turned it over on downs. J. Max Swaim carried the ball for 1 yard, then Dezern picked up 6 yards to bring up third-and-3. Dezern handed the ball to Barnes, who powered his way through a flock of Falcons to come up with a 4-yard gain and a first down.
From there, Starmount kept pushing down the field and just as they were about to cross the 50-yard line, they turned the ball over on fourth-and-2.
With 9:55 left before halftime, the Falcons took over on the 49-yard line. Forbush ran seven plays and made it into the end zone with 7:03 left in the half. Graham put the ball in Johnson’s possession, and he made his way to the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown run. The extra point was put through the uprights, and the Falcons had the momentum with a 14-0 lead.
Before the half was over, two additional touchdowns were scored. The Falcons put another one on the board, and Starmount scored its first of the night.
The third touchdown was scored once again by Johnson. On third-and-4, Graham handed the ball off to Johnson, who powered his way through a herd of Rams. Johnson made his way down the field and turned on his jets for a 78-yard touchdown run. The touchdown gave Forbush a 20-0 lead with 2:39 left before halftime.
Starmount put down its first touchdown with a drive that started on the 38. Dezern handed the ball off to Barnes and Swaim as the Rams made their way down the field. With time winding down, Dezern was able to put the ball into the end zone. Dezern made his way to the right, then faked back left until he found a hole in the defense for a Starmount touchdown. The extra point was blocked by the Falcons. At halftime, Forbush had a 20-6 lead over the Rams.
Forbush had accumulated 184 yards in the first two quarters, with four first downs and three touchdowns. Starmount had nine first downs, one touchdown and 153 yards total.
The third and fourth quarters saw turnovers and touchdowns. The Rams had a fumble on the opening drive of the half, which was recovered by the Falcons. Although Forbush recovered the ball, its drive lasted two plays until it fumbled and Starmount recovered.
“Even though we didn’t capitalize on it, I thought the fumble to start off the second half was huge,” said Johnson. “I knew Starmount was going to come out since they got couched up at halftime and made some adjustments. The fumble sunk them a little bit and it was a big push for us. Unfortunately we didn’t make anything off of it, but we chewed up some clock.”
In the third quarter, Forbush started off a drive that would continue to the fourth quarter. The Falcons started things off with Landreth Cockerham calling for a fair-catch at the 19-yard line. From there Forbush made its way down the field.
For three plays in a row, Graham gave the ball to Johnson, who accumulated 15 yards and a first down. On second-and-10 from the 35, Graham fumbled the snap but recovered it for a loss of 16 yards. The Rams were able to put pressure on the Falcons on third-and-36, with Graham’s pass to Landon Rockett being ruled incomplete as he was out of bounds when he secured the catch. Starmount looked to take over as the Falcons were forced to punt the ball away, but things quickly went south for the Rams.
On fourth-and-26, Starmount had a flag thrown for roughing the kicker, Forbush had the ball on fourth-and-11 and once again the Falcons punted the ball. Just as it looked like Starmount would take over at the 23-yard line, the Rams were once again penalized for roughing the kicker and the 15-yard penalty gave the Falcons a first down at the 40-yard line.
Forbush was able to advance down the field as Johnson and Graham both put in positive yards. Although Forbush was advancing down the field, the Rams were able to come up with a big stop on third down. On fourth-and-8, the Falcons were forced to punt the ball to the opposing team.
Starmount’s Drake Funderburk came up with the punt and just as he was making his way down the field, the Falcons stripped the ball away and A.J. McConkey came up with recovery. Forbush took over on the 38-yard line and the Falcons made the most of the turnover with a touchdown.
On fourth-and-20, the Falcons decided to go for the first down. With confidence in his play-makers, Graham put up a strong pass down the field to Rockett. Rockett was able to shake his defender and run into the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was good and Forbush had a 28-6 lead.
“It feels great, it doesn’t even feel real. We’ve worked so hard for this,” said Graham on his first win over Starmount as a varsity quarterback. “The play where Rockett and I connected in the end zone was my favorite play of the night.”
Starmount started chipping away at Forbush’s lead as Barnes scored a touchdown with 7:40 left in the quarter. Barnes’ touchdown made the score 28-12, as the two-point conversion was no good.
The final touchdown of the night came three minutes later as Swaim found the end zone with a 38-yard run. The two-point conversion was no good and the score remained 28-18 in Forbush’s favor.
The Falcons were able to stand strong on offense and defense until time ran out. When the final whistle blew, Forbush had successfully won the Unifi Bowl 28-18 over Starmount.
Trey Dezern was named the Player of the Game for the Rams, while Dillon Johnson was named the Player of the Game for the Falcons.
“Hopefully this catapults us into bigger and better things,” said Johnson on the win. “We’ve had three losses and two of them we felt like we were a play away from getting the win. Hopefully our kids understand that the hard work we are doing pays off. (For the rest of the season) maybe we won’t have the misfortunes that we had the first few weeks and we had the fortune that we had tonight.”
Starmount moves to 0-4 overall, and will have a bye this week. Next week, the Rams will travel to Elkin for the Battle of the Bridge.
Forbush is now 1-3, and they will travel to North Wilkes on Thursday night. The game has been moved up due to the impending weather. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
“Our kids played extremely well tonight, but our coaches really did a great job preparing our kids in practice,” said Johnson. “The heat this week for us, and for everybody in our area, was so hard. You have to really coach hard throughout those adversities. I was really proud of the way our coaches coached this week.”