BROOKLYN – In a battle of tough, physical defenses, it was the men in maroon who stood victorious in the end.
Forrest County AHS forced four turnovers, turning three of them into scores and the fourth stopping a last-gasp drive in the red zone as the Aggies secured an 18-6 victory over Vancleave Friday night at Henley Field.
Forrest County (2-1) won its second consecutive game after a season-opening defeat, while the Bulldogs (1-2) dropped their second straight after a victory in their opener.
“We’re not who we thought we were,” said Vancleave coach Kevin Fant. “And I don’t know what (FCAHS) did last week, but they weren’t the same team we saw on film all week. Credit Forrest County; they popped us in the mouth.”
Neither team could get much going offensively for most of the first half, and the game was played mostly between the 30-yard-lines until the Aggies forced a play on defense.
On a third-and-15 from the Vancleave 35, junior nose guard Jeremiah Daniels crashed in the pass rush, sacked Bulldog senior quarterback Hunter Parker, forced the ball out and recovered the fumble at the Bulldog 32.
On a third-and-9, Aggie junior quarterback Brett Robertson found sophomore Terrence Horne who outleaped the defender to the ball for a 31-yard scoring play with 1:37 left in the half.
Disaster struck the Bulldogs again on the first play after the kickoff, when Daniels stuck his hand up in front of a pass from Parker and held on for an interception at the 30-yard-line.
“We’ve been going over that little screen that they run,” said Daniels. “I saw it, they didn’t block me, Ii saw the screen and I just made a play on the ball.”
The Bulldogs kept Forrest County out of the end zone, but the Aggies were still able to cash in the turnover on a 43-yard field goal by senior Hayden Grice as time expired in the first half for a 10-0 halftime lead.
Vancleave got right back in the game on what would prove to be its only big play of the night, a 59-yard burst up the middle by senior Derik Forehand for a touchdown on third down after the opening kickoff of the second half.
“The O-line was pretty good, I saw the open hole and just took it,” said Forehand “It was just green grass. They were just more physical than we were. I’ll just be honest with you.”
A bad snap on the PAT kick kept the score at 10-6 with 10:31 left in the third quarter, plenty of time for the Bulldogs to mount a comeback, but the Aggies stopped them at every turn.
“They’re a good football team,” Fant said. “They’re big and physical, and they taught us that we aren’t last year’s team.” We’ve got to get better.
Vancleave’s defense made plenty of big plays, but the Bulldogs had trouble corralling an Aggie rushing attack that totaled 136 hard-earned yards.
It was Horne who got the early yardage for FCAHS, finishing with 63 yards on 12 carries, mostly in the first half. Junior Omarion Reed got the bulk of the work in the second half, rushing for 55 yards on 15 carries for the night.
Still, the defense got Vancleave the ball at the Aggie 45 after sacking Robertson on a fourth-down play. But the Bulldogs were stopped on a fourth down of their own, then spent most of the rest of the half on their side of the field.
“Defensively, we’ve struggled the past few years, especially in the first half of games,” said Fant. “Then, this year, they’ve played great. They gave us multiple opportunities, and we just didn’t play well.
“That’s my fault, and I’ve got to find a way to get better on the offensive side. Hopefully, our defense keeps playing like this. Getting healthy will
help, but no excuses, Forest County played a great game.”
Indeed, the Bulldogs only netted 177 yards of offense for the game, and were hurt by nine penalties for 60 yards, many at critical moments.
The clinching blow for Forrest County came with under three minutes to play. On a third-and-15 from the Bulldog 22, Parker was picked off again, this time by Aggie senior Jacob Martin, who carried the pick to the 2-yard-line, and Reed blew in over left guard for the score.
After the Bulldogs were called for back-to-back encroachments on the PAT kick, the Aggies chose to go for two and converted on a pass from Roberston to junior Corbin Horne and an 18-6 lead with 2:38 to play in the game.
A pair of roughing the passer calls helped Vancleave mount a last-ditch effort that carried the Bulldogs to the Aggie 12, but Forrest County junior Jarrod Dyson stepped in front of a sideline pass to apply the final blow.
“When Monday comes, we’ve just to start working harder,” said Forehand.
Vancleave returns home next week to host George County, while FCAHS is on the road to battle Greene County.