It nearly happened again.
A year removed from a magical playoff run that included upset wins over traditional state powers in Norcross and Tucker, South Forsyth took a potent Parkview team to the final minute on Friday night before falling 30-27 in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs.
Behind the arm of sophomore quarterback Drew Morris, who entered with only two career starts in replacement of Davis Shanley, South (7-4) drove to the Panthers’ 37 yard line before running out of magic. Morris, who proved a coaching staff’s trust with 28 passes (14 completed for 132 yards and a TD), broke what looked like a sure sack and darted 14 yards to give the War Eagles a new set of downs near scoring territory—but they couldn’t muster up a miracle. But they sure were close.
“These kids are special,” South head coach Jeff Arnette said. “They don’t back down to anyone. No matter who comes in here, they have all of the confidence in the world. They believe they can beat anybody they go up against. That’s why we were able to play like we did tonight.”
The Panthers (8-3), looking to return to the glory of state titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002, entered postseason play seemingly on fire—they gained 708 yards and scored 67 points in their final regular season game, and with dynamic super sophomore Malik Washington looked like an impossible opponent for the War Eagles.
South delayed the firework display that was Washington and his teammates, holding the Panthers to just 63 total yards in the first half. The War Eagles led 14-8 before Washington finally broke free, scoring from 68 yards on a short pass and 53 on a quarterback-keeper to tie the game at 14-all and then give the Panthers a 22-21 lead in the third quarter.
Julian Mingo’s second touchdown of the second half gave South a 27-22 lead in the fourth, but Parkview struck the final blow when Caleb Mitchell (10-24, 186 yards, 2TDs, INT) hit Jaylen Askew for a wide open 33-yard go-ahead score.
“We talked about limiting the big plays. We knew they could make them, but that was really the only one that was a mistake from us tonight,” Arnette said. “We had one busted play on defense tonight. Other than that we were really good, they just have playmakers.”
South had a chance at taking a two-score lead in the second half after Jack Pehrson recovered a fumble in Parkview territory with South leading 27-22, but the War Eagles could not capitalize. Mingo’s go-ahead score moments earlier was after an interception at the line of scrimmage by Sean O’Malley.
South went up 14-0 thanks to a throwback screen to Jake Nicholas that went 20 yards for a score and a 1-yard touchdown from Jared Honey. Honey led the War Eagles with 62 yards on 12 carries and two catches for 48 yards, including a 31-yard reception that set up Mingo’s first score. Mingo had 15 carries for 61 yards and the two touchdowns, while Jake Nicholas had 37 and Morris had 55 as South compiled 344 yards on offense—Parkview was held to 298.
Washington had just eight yards on eight of his nine carries, while Christian Malloy was held to 42 yards on 10 carries.
Max Slott, one of many seniors playing their final game, also had a highlight play when he ran through two blockers to stop a screen in the first half. Ian Hunt added a sack for the War Eagles on defense.
Parkview will move on to play at McEachern in the second round of the playoffs.
“Once you get to this point, you just focus on the guys you won’t get to coach anymore,” Arnette said. “The seniors have done so much for the program. I told them, we made a few mistakes and they capitalized, but these kids are a special group. I’m very honored to have coached all of them.”