COAL MOUNTAIN, Ga. — North Forsyth found itself in a corner with seconds remaining in the first half.
Blessed Trinity was about to go up 17-10 on a 27-yard field goal try. Logan Curry blocked it, and JD Galligan returned to the Titans’ 2-yard line with no time left in the first half.
That was the spark as the Raiders powered past Blessed Trinity 14-7 in the second half en route to a 24-21 win at Raider Valley on Friday.
With the win, the Raiders advance to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs and will face No. 1 seed Langston-Hughes next week.
“I thought the physical toughness of our team won in the end,” North Forsyth coach Robert Craft said. “That is Blessed Trinity's MO is how physical they are, so we talked about how we had to match that, and we did for 48 minutes tonight. I’m just proud of how our guys went in at halftime and didn’t flinch.”
The Raiders opened the game on back-to-back possessions, thanks to a Blessed Trinity muffed punt. The fumbled punt recovery set the Raiders up at BT’s 45-yard line.
Senior quarterback West Roberts (15-of-25, 197 yards passing, 2 TD) connected with Zach Shirley (6 catches for 40 yards) four plays later on a 4-yard pass to take the lead, 7-0, with 9:32 to go in the first.
But the Titans fired back behind the fierce rushing attack from Kieran Davis, who scored BT’s first touchdown. The Titans scored again on an Austin Rogers 14-yard pass to Cole Weaver to go up 14-7 with 54 seconds left in the first quarter.
Davis was a beast in the first half, rushing for 87 yards.
The Raiders added a 35-yard Adrian Droze field goal with 9:59 left in the first half.
The second half was physical. The Raiders’ front seven, led by Chris Herock, Braden O’Shields and Collin Miller, flustered the Titans’ offense, forcing them into 25 yards in movement or delay of game penalties, less than 100 yards of offense, seven negative plays, and sacked Rogers twice. Collin Miller and Chris Herock recorded the QB sacks.
Oh, and they held Davis to 44 yards in the second half.
“Their ability to just keep playing and just physically, I thought, we were ready to play and really took that part over late in the game,” Craft said. Their back [Davis] was hard to tackle. We had to get a lot of guys there, but our guys just kept playing.”
The Raiders leaned heavily on the defense in the final 24 minutes, but the offense stepped up as well, including a 14-play, 6-minute drive in the third quarter that resulted in a Roberts’ 8-yard rushing go-ahead touchdown. Droze’s extra point pushed the Raiders ahead for the first time since the opening quarter, 17-14.
NoFo stalemated Blessed Trinity on the next drive, dropping Davis for no gain on back-to-back plays to force a punt.
On the Raiders' next possession, they were stuck at 3rd-down and 7 when Roberts fired a missile toward Aiden Ruckh on the Raiders' sideline. The senior tight hauled in the pass and did the rest with his legs, getting away from a BT would-be tackler in a PlayStation-like move to take it 57 yards to paydirt. The TD pushed the Raiders ahead by two scores, 24-14, with 11:45 left in the game. Ruckh finished with two catches for 63 yards.
“You talk about a senior who broke his ankle early in the year, missed most of the year, and battled back,” Craft said. “There's not a better player on this team to have that opportunity than him to make a big play like that. I am so proud of how hard he's worked to be in that spot.”
The Titans scored again with 2:28 left on a 3-yard Davis TD run, closing the gap 24-21, but the Raiders recovered the onside kick and iced the game.
Curry led the Raiders receiving with five catches for 77 yards, while sophomore running back Karson McBrayer finished with 82 rushing yards on 19 carries.
“Just so proud of how they kept playing,” Craft said. “They just kept their composure and kept playing. We’re going to enjoy this one tonight, and then, we’ll get ready for next week.”