With a new coaching staff entering the fray, West Forsyth was always going to be somewhat of a wild card as an early season matchup for Cartersville. But following the Wolverines’ impressive showing in their opener last Wednesday during the Corky Kell Classic, it’s pretty evident what the Canes should expect.
Now, it’s a fool’s errand to read too much into one result. However, considering that Class 7A West Forsyth opened the year against 4A ninth-ranked Mays and utterly dominated from start to finish in a 42-7 victory, Cartersville should expect a tough test as the program looks to extend its state record for consecutive regular-season wins to 60.
“We knew when we scheduled them that it would be quite a challenge for us,” Canes head coach Conor Foster said. “We knew they had a lot of players coming back, and any time you’re playing a 7A opponent, it’s going to provide a challenge from a depth perspective. They don’t play any guys both ways, and we play a handful of guys two ways. They present some really tough challenges for us.”
One of Foster’s primary concerns, particularly since he’s a defensive coach, should be Daba Fofana. The senior running back had a monster night against Mays, finishing with 164 total yards on 22 touches (six receptions) and three touchdowns, according to the Forsyth News.
“He’s kind of a blend of all the things you want in a running back,” Foster said of the 5-foot-8, 190-pounder, who also doubles as the West Forsyth punter. “He gets downhill. He’s physical, but I also think he has good speed. People just don’t seem to square him up very well. … You can tell he’s strong and has a low center of gravity. His balance is good.
“We’re going to have to gang tackle and rally to the ball, which is what we preach all the time. Their running game is where they want to make hay, so to speak. It’s their bread and butter. They want to come out and establish the run, and then take some shots downfield on play-action passes.”
A primary target on those throws will be Oscar Delp. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound tight end will present all kinds of problems for the Cartersville defense.
The three-star recruit hauled in two touchdown passes in last week’s game, and Delp has since reeled in scholarship offers from Michigan, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Michigan State and Boston College.
Fofana and Delp will be the main targets for sophomore quarterback Keegan Stover. A transfer from Dawson County, Stover went 12-of-19 passing for 156 yards and four scores in his first varsity start.
“He’s young, but you can tell he’s very talented,” Foster said of Stover. “He has good command of their offense and seems very comfortable with what they’re asking him to do.
“They have two tight ends who are really big and really physical. One of them just picked up a Michigan offer last week. Two big young men who are physical in the run game and skilled in the passing game, as well. They create matchup issues.”
Defensively, Foster is expecting to see plenty of wrinkles from West Forsyth — which is led by Dave Svehla, who took Etowah to the state playoffs each of the past seven seasons. Foster noted that the Wolverines seem to play extremely aggressive on that side of the ball in an effort to cause confusion.
It seemed to work against Mays — which dropped down from 6A this year and has made the state playoffs seven straight seasons — as West Forsyth limited the visitors to 52 yards of total offense in the first half. Safety Dalton Southern, who is also the team’s backup quarterback, recovered a fumble and tipped a pass that resulted in an interception.
“They blitz from everywhere,” Foster said. “They get in different fronts, and they have people coming from all over the field. It’s hard to know exactly where they’re coming from or their rhyme or reason for blitzing who and from where.
“At times, they’ll overwhelm us, and at times, we’ll have the right call on. It will be a bit of a chess match.”
During last Friday’s 42-0 rout of Morrow, Foster felt as though, in many ways, things were back to normal at Weinman Stadium. Sure, the friendly confines were limited to 50% capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the atmosphere for the long-awaited season opener lived up to the hype.
He hopes a similar situation awaits this week.
“I told my wife, ‘Once we got rolling, and I looked up in the stands, it felt like a normal Friday night,’” Foster said Wednesday. “Just thankful the community has rallied behind all these young men and young ladies involved in our football program, our band, our cheerleaders, our [Canes] Vision team and our athletic training team. Just so thankful to those parents, and the people here in our school system who put together a tremendous plan for us to be able to have a crowd on Friday night. Any time you can play in Weinman Stadium, it’s special. That was very special, because I know not every team has the kind of opportunity that our young men are afforded during this pandemic. …
“I look forward to a big crowd on Friday night. I know they will sell out their tickets, and I hope that we will do the same on our side.”