Game Summaries & Headlines.
The Forge Eagles completed phase 1 of their season on Saturday evening, with a hard fought 17-14 win on the road at North Stafford. A 24-yard field goal by Phillip Lovelace gave the “good guys” the lead for good with 11.6 seconds remaining in the third quarter, and the Eagles defense took it from there, but they sure did not make it easy on themselves. When we look back on the regular campaign, one thing we will be able to say is the Eagles two worst games were the first game against Patriot and the last game against North.
This re-scheduled game had a weird aura to it from the minute the buses arrived on Garrisonville Road. A wet Friday weather forecast moved the game to a 5pm Saturday start, and the Eagles needed this win to clinch their second straight undefeated regular season, and extended their dominance over the Wolverines to seven straight. Saturday marked the 2, 592nd day since North beat Forge on the football field, and on the field there was plenty of trash talk. Trash talk is common in this era of sports, but focus can be a question.
Focus did not seem to be a problem early for the top ranked Eagles, as on their second possession they went 77 yards in just three plays that ended on a 63 yard run by Josh Sarratt with 7:42 left in the first quarter. Lovelace tacked on the point after and the Forge sent the first message at 7-0.
When the Wolverines took the field for their second possession, they drove the ball from their 36-yard line to the Forge 21, aided by a 15-yard facemask penalty assessed against the Eagles that took the home team down to the Forge 22. The drive stalled though as the Forge defense shut it down and the Eagles took over on downs.
Forge put together an efficient drive 78-yard drive in eleven snaps and this one was the beneficiary of a North Stafford holding penalty that gave the Eagles a first down at the Wolverine 24 yard line. A pass from Madden Lowe to Paten Rodier, followed by two consecutive runs by Oliejah Louissaint and the senior punched it in from the two with 1:35 left in the first quarter. Lovelace’s point after made the scoreboard read, Forge 14 North 0 and that is how the initial frame ended.
It was the second quarter that North started to get a bit of a Swag, and the Eagles started to shoot themselves in the foot. All season long this team has had their opponent down by multiple scores, and they were able to keep the peddle to the mettle to break the opponents will. That was not going to happen on this night.
The Forge defense again stood tall early I the second quarter, stopping the Wolverines inside the Eagles 30 yard line with a sack. The Eagles could not take advantage, as what appeared to be a Forge team driving for more points, was a mirage that became reality when Lowe tossed a screen pass that landed in the arms of the Wolverines Chris Hicks at the North Stafford 38-yard line. The home team was able to make the Eagles pay as they went 62 yards in nine plays. The start of the drive it was all Devyn Ford, but it was a 3 yard pass to Javon Swinton and it got the home team on the board at 14-7.
This is where the momentum clearly shifted to the North sideline. The Forge offense was the one that was clearly effected by the shift. The remainder of the half they were unable to get out of their own way at times, on the third play of the next Eagles drive, they picked up a key first down but they were called for a silly personal foul penalty as the players started chirping. The Eagles are notorious for getting personal foul penalties and being caught for fouls for retaliation, and this was one of those cases that fueled the Wolverine momentum.
Fortunately, for the Eagles, the North offense could not take advantage of the free real estate and again the Forge defense bailed out the sputtering offense with a sack on 4th and 10 at the Eagles 2. Again, they took over on downs. The frustration of the Eagles was evident and Coach John Brown took two steps outside the Eagle sideline and told his quarterback to take a knee to end the half, with a 14-7 lead.
The Wolverines were not able to do anything with the second half kickoff but on their next possession, they started to make the GREEN CLAD Forge fans a little uneasy on the visitor’s sideline. North Stafford used tremendous field possession to go 52 yards in five plays, scoring from eleven yards out with 8:45 left in the third quarter. The point after was good and we had a tie game at 14-14.
Josh Sarratt gave the Eagle offense great field position on the kickoff but it called back by a holding penalty. It deteriorated even more when on a 3rd and eight from their own 45, the Forge fumbled and the Wolverines recovered looking for the go-ahead score.
The Eagle defense was doing their part by controlling the North offense and actually had a sack on a third down, but again the Forge shot themselves again by being called for holding that gave North a 1st and 10 at the Eagle 31 yard line. North Stafford was not exactly magical with their offense at times, as they were deep in Forge territory but Ford fumbled a direct snap on third and two and then on fourth and seven, the Wolverines tried to find Forge on a long pass that was overthrown, and the Forge dodged another bullet.
On the next Forge drive, the focus seemed to change. The Eagles decided to start getting senior speedster Zach Kindel some touches while mixing in the hard rushing Ernesto Bowen on the ground. The move seemed to light a fire with the offense and on the Eagle sideline. Forge faced a third and a dozen from their own 48 when Madden Lowe rolled right and threw a gorgeous 30-yard connection to Kindel along the far sideline. The Forge was in the red zone knocking on the door and when a screen to Kindel ended at the 9-yard line, but the drive stalled at the eight and left the Eagles with a 4th down. They called on Lovelace to hit a 24-yard field goal with 11.6 seconds left on the third quarter clock and he put the “good guys” ahead for good at 17-14.
The mood on the sideline was picking up but was suddenly squashed on the second play of North’s next drive. The Wolverines had a 2nd and 4 from the Eagles 48 yard line, but Forge had running back Shawn Ashbury dead to rights in the backfield for a loss, but he got away and he scampered down the near sideline to the Forge 6 yard line. On first and goal the Forge D stopped Ford after a yard, and was digging in for one final stop. On third and goal, the Wolverines fumbled again and North called on their kicker for a 32-yard game tying field goal. The attempt was such a duck from the time it left the kicker’s foot, if you were a hunter you never would have tried to shoot it….it fell short of the crossbar, and the Eagles still led 17-14 midway through “winning time”.
The remainder of the final stanza was a parade of penalties, fumbles and miss-steps on both sides, When North started its final drive, there was just 1:06 left in the contest and they found themselves starting the drive at their own seven-yard line. They worked the ball out to their own 30 but there was only 5.6 seconds left when the Forge was called for roughing the passer to set up the Wolverines last gasp play from the North 46. A pass in the flat, and a pitch back went detected by the Forge defense and the Eagles had their 10-0 regular season and another Commonwealth District Championship.
Plenty of time to rest now as the Forge has earned a bye in the first round of the 6B Regional playoffs, which begins on November 9. They also have plenty of time to get themselves re-focused on the goal. They dodged a bullet on this night, and were fortunate to walk out with a trophy.
PLAYOFF TIME: The Forge will open the playoffs on Friday night November 16 against an opponent still to be determined. Stay tuned to our Twitter page (@forgeathletics) and “America’s Best Web Site”, (forgeathletics.org) for game information and times.