The last time Forsyth High School won a varsity football game was Oct. 13, 2017 – a 50-44 victory over Santa Fe.
That was 693 days and 11 losses ago for the Panthers.
So you’ll have to forgive players on the current team if they didn’t know exactly how much to celebrate after Friday night’s 24-13 victory over Jasper.
It was the first home game for first-year head coach Andy McFarland, who has big expectations for this team and program.
Even higher expectations than a simple win.
“It was kind of funny,” McFarland said. “It was like Dad was upset, but something good had happened, so they didn’t know how to react.
“The game ended and they were celebrating a little bit, but they also understand that my expectations for them are higher.”
Still, even though there were some warts on display from the team in the victory, there was a sense of relief and a good bit of jubilation.
“There was a lot of celebration on the field, with the parents and band and cheerleaders,” McFarland said. “That was nice to see.”
McFarland said he considers it a sign of growth in the program that there are expectations that go beyond wins and losses – even in the aftermath of such a long-awaited victory.
“Obviously it’s a big win for our school and football program,” McFarland said. “But for me, I have higher hopes for us, just because I see the potential that we have.
“I think it’s important at this stage in our program, that we shouldn’t be satisfied with just a win. They know that.”
For the second consecutive week, Forsyth put up a splashy play on offense early in the game.
In the opener, there was a long touchdown run on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage. Against Jasper, the third offensive play was a 53-yard reverse pass, from Hunter Creason to Jon Deroo.
The play put a charge into the big crowd.
“That’s something we had spent some time working on this week, and it went as planned, which was nice,” McFarland said.
After a three-and-out series by Jasper, Buck Sanders made a nice punt return, to near midfield, starting another Forsyth scoring drive.
On a fourth-and-goal play from the Jasper 6-yard line, Deroo hit Corgan Strong on a play-action pass. Another two-point conversion made it a 16-0 Panthers’ lead.
Jasper answered with a pair of scores, and a blocked PAT on the second one made it a 16-13 lead, which stood until the fourth quarter.
The Panthers iced the game with a 20-yard TD run by Sanders.
While there were offensive frustration in the second half, McFarland had no problems with the effort and defensive execution throughout the game, as Jasper
“I thought we came out in the third quarter and played very well, especially defensively,” he said. “We played our game plan exactly the way we asked them to.
“We have some young kids out there who are doing some really good things. … There’s a lot of things we can be excited about.”
McFarland estimated he brought up “consistency” with his team about 1,000 times last week, and it will continue to be the message moving forward.
Consistency in doing the little things right, and consistency from play to play.
“We did great with that in the first quarter,” McFarland said. “After the first quarter, we really struggled.
“We are so close to making a big leap in our performance, even this year. We had so many opportunities to put the game away and put it out of reach, and we couldn’t do that.”
Next up is Forsyth’s Homecoming game, against Greenfield.
Greenfield is 0-1 and did not play on Friday night, following a 38-6 loss to Jasper in Week 1.
McFarland cautioned against comparing scores and expecting an easy victory for his team. He said the Wildcats were playing without multi-position standout Daunte Stafford, who is expected to be back this week.
“If we are fortunate enough to have a good first quarter and squander opportunities to put the game away, they’ll have more than enough firepower to put points on the board,” he said.
“We need to start fast and finish strong, and not hit a wall in the middle.”