Cal Morris showed why there was little concern among the South Forsyth faithful prior to the season opener, even though the program graduated its all-time leading quarterback.
The senior made the most of his first varsity start, throwing for 93 yards and running for a touchdown, to lead unranked South Forsyth to a 17-14 win in double-overtime against Class AAAAAAA No. 4 Roswell.
“Cal isn’t a secret to us,” South Forsyth coach Jeff Arnette said. “We’ve always known how good Cal was, problem is he was behind one of the best QB I’ve ever seen in Davis Shanley, who’s playing at Western Kentucky. We knew he was good, we knew he could make plays, we saw it in practice and in the scrimmage. I’ll tell you, he made some plays at the end that were pretty impressive.”
Morris completed 11 of 21 passes, four of them to Ze’Vian Capers for 37 yards. Jared Honey, moved from fullback to tailback to ensure more touches, rushed 30 times for 114 yards and a 17-yard touchdown run.
Roswell, which returned only one starter from last year’s state runner-up team, got a strong effort from senior quarterback Cordell Littlejohn, who completed 12 of 20 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown. Junior Kamonty Jett rushed 22 times for 91 yards.
The game didn’t get interesting until the teams went to overtime after slugging to a 7-7 tie through regulation.
Roswell scored on its first play, Littlejohn breaking outside on a 15-yard touchdown run. But South Forsyth answered on its second play, an 11-yard run by Morris.
South Forsyth then overcame a penalty on the goal line and produced a 23-yard field goal from Quinn O’Grady.
When Roswell got the ball, the South Forsyth defense immediately put the Hornets in a difficult situation when Ryan LaFlamme sacked Littlejohn on first down. Roswell came up short on fourth-and-23 and set off a raucous celebration for the War Eagles, who won the first football game played at the stadium.
“We’re used to stuff like that,” Morris said. “We’re always facing adversity.”
The South Forsyth defense was led by LaFlamme, who had 10 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Jess Lucas had 11 tackles for the War Eagles.
Roswell’s defense got 10 tackles from Ty’ron Hopper, who had three tackles for loss and two sacks. Tre Barnett added 10 tackles and Cole Anderson had nine.
The win was a big one for South Forsyth, which went 7-4 a year ago. To beat Roswell, a state finalist the last two seasons, was important, Arnette said.
“It’s a huge win for our program,” he said. “When you tackle someone like Roswell that’s played for the title last two years and the athletes they’ve got … I told our kids, that’s where we want to be. You have to play teams like that. We didn’t make some plays early but our kids believed they could win the game, they believed thy should be here and in the end, that’s what happened.”
Morris said, “It’s amazing. They’ve been to the state championship the last two years and to come out and beat them like that … I know they’re not the same team they used to be, but they’ve still got some athletes and it’s just great that we beat them.”
After a scoreless first half, Roswell finally broke through for a touchdown with 5:04 left in the third quarter. The Hornets drove 89 yards in six plays and scored when Cordell Littlejohn threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Walt Warren, the backup quarterback.
“We go out and give up a first-down scramble for a touchdown and that can make you give it up pretty quick, but our kids didn’t do that,” Arnette said. “They kept fighting and made the plays in the last two series had to make to win it.”
South Forsyth answered with 10:07 left in the game, a drive that was helped when Roswell was flagged for a personal foul on a punt return. The War Eagles, starting on the Roswell 47, scored seven plays later. Honey broke through the middle for a 17-yard touchdown to tie the game.
Neither team scored in the first half.
South Forsyth appeared to have taken the lead early in the second quarter. The War Eagles drove to the 1 and Honey appeared to have cross the goal line, but officials ruled him down shy of the end zone. On the next play Honey never got the handle on the exchange and fumbled. Roswell’s Caden Bondurant recovered for the takeaway.
Two possessions later, Roswell drove the ball to the 1 before coming up empty. Littlejohn connected for 25 yards to Caleb Guidry at the 15. Four plays later the Hornets punched it down the 1, but lost 6 yards when LaFlamme sacked Littlejohn on second down, then Jack Pehrson tipped away a pass on third down. On fourth down it was Myles Ellis who knocked a pass away from Hopper in the end zone.