West Forsyth to open football season tonight against Oak Grove
By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier
The Super Bowl was played less than three weeks ago, and football is usually done this time of year until practice starts in August. But if anything the past year has taught us, is that nothing about the past year has been normal.
As weird as it may sound, high school football games across North Carolina start Thursday night. And one of those games is West Forsyth playing a scheduled home games at 7 p.m. against Oak Grove.
For 13th-year head coach Adrian Snow of the Titans and the players it’s an exciting time. After all, the Titans hadn’t played a game since Nov. 29, 2019, when it lost Charlotte Vance 35-7 in the quarterfinals of the NCHSAA Class 4-AA playoffs at Jerry Peoples Stadium. So 15 months without playing has been grueling for the players and coaching staff.
“It was very refreshing, just to be apart, to do it again, and go from there,” Snow said. “It was cool.”
Practice started in earnest for all NCHSAA teams across the state on Feb. 8, the day after the Super Bowl, and each team had one scrimmage. West Forsyth played Mooresville as a tuneup for Oak Grove.
“Just as long as they give us a chance to play, we don’t care,” Snow said.
One thing that Snow has always had since he’s been the head coach at West Forsyth is that there is plenty of depth, both at positions and teams. Snow said that there are 105 players across both the varsity and JV teams.
“We’re going to be OK,” he said. “We’ve got a good group, new kids. It’s a new group, different names. But our kids are resilient and they’ll do a good job, and we’re excited about it.”
The Titans will need that depth because they lost 30 seniors from a team that won the Central Piedmont 4-A championship, finished 11-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference, received a first-round bye in the playoffs, and defeated rival Reagan 28-12 in the second round. In contrast, this season’s senior class is just over half of what it was in 2019.
“We’ve had those years. We’ve had those years,” Snow said. “In this class it’s really small. I only have 18 seniors, and there’s a couple of first-year seniors. So I think there’s like 16 seniors that have been in the program for the whole four years, which is small.
“We’ve got a great group, great kids, They’re going to do good.”
For a lot of teams, it would be tough to replace 30 seniors from a very successful season. For the Titans, they have been able to build off teams’ success over the years and keep the train going.
“I think at West Forsyth you try to reload,” Snow said. “Nobody wants to rebuild. Nobody likes to hear the word ‘rebuild.’ They just like to hear the word ‘reload.’ ”
West Forsyth lost uber-talented running back G’mone Wilson to graduation, but Snow said the Titans have a stable of running backs ready.
“We’ve got (5-foot-10 senior) Nasion Johnson and we’ve got (5-11 junior) Jevante Long, both who are really good players,” Snow said. “Both will do a good job for us. Up front, we’ve got a good group up there.
“We’ll be OK. Some of the names might change, but we feel like we’re going to stay the same.”
Johnson and Long should provide a nice tandem at running back for the Titans.
“We’ve got two running backs who are really talented, and they’ll do a good job,” Snow said. “We have a track kid that just came in, Malachi Jowers, who’s going to help us too. He’s going to give us some depth there. Both of those kids Nation and Tay (Long) are, they’re good players.”
Jalen Ferguson took most of the snaps at quarterback in 2019, but he graduated. Snow said sophomore Kian Bailey, who is 6-3 and 180 pounds, will likely start for the Titans.
“(Bailey’s) done a really good job for us,” Snow said. “We’ve had three kids to basically do the part — Kian, Jacob Coale and Will Price — all three of them are great kids,” Snow said. “They’re really done a good job competing, but I think Kian’s kind of took to it another level.
“He’s a young kid, but I think he’s talented. He has a lot of room to grow and he’ll be good.”
One question during the offseason was the status of senior offensive tackle Jared Wilson. He signed with Georgia, but decided to play this spring for the Titans rather than go to Athens, Georgia, as an early enrollee for the Bulldogs.
“I was never a factor in that decision, not because I didn’t want to be,” Snow said. “I just told him it was right by me. I told him I’d love him if he stayed, I’d love him if he went. It didn’t matter. So it wasn’t going to change the way we felt about him.
“He decided because of a lot of factors, he has a brother that’s going to be a really good player this year. He’s going to be a part, and he wanted to play with him. Also, he has a really tight-knit group of friends who have been together for four years. I think he kind of wanted to go out on a last ride and see it work. He was excited and we’re excited to have him.”
On defense, West Forsyth lost linebacker Giovanni Ricciardi, who is now playing at Western Carolina, to graduation. However, the Titans have players like junior middle linebacker Mack David, who is 6-0, 235 pounds. In addition, Chris Van Kleeck, a 6-1, 206-pound junior, has moved from safety to linebacker.
“We’ve got some good inside linebackers. Mack David, he’s a really good player. Chris Van Kleeck is a player we moved down from safety to inside backer, and he’ll do really well.
“We’ve got outside backers that are really good players right now, and they’re all young to be honest with you.”
But it’ll be David who Snow and the Titans will count on because he’s a good tackler and he’s a ball hawk.
“First of all, he’s a great young man,” Snow said of David. “And he does what you ask him to do every day. He’s a fierce competitor. He works really hard and he’s really strong, and every day he gets better.”
Jake Hill, a 6-0, 185-pound senior, will lead a talented group of defense backs for the Titans.
“It starts basically with Jake Hill,” Snow said. “Jake Hill will be a starter for us in the backfield. He started for us last year. He’s a really good player. He’s smart. He lines everybody up. Jake does a really good job for us.”
With the game against Oak Grove, Snow will match wits with Coach Mark Holcomb, who coached for years against Snow when Holcomb was the head coach at North Davidson when both were in the Central Piedmont 4-A.
“The good thing with Mark and them, they may be 2-A, but they’re really a 3-A-sized school,” Snow said. “That’s what they’re going to be next year, which is fine. We know what we’re going to get. We know they’re going to be extremely well coached. They’re going to do it the right way. It’s going to be first-class, so you enjoy competing against people like that because I think that kind of gives you a chance to see where you’re at.”
Following the Oak Grove game, West Forsyth will finish its non-conference portion of the schedule against Greensboro Page on March 5, then play its first conference game at home on March 12 against two-time defending NCHSAA Class 4-A state-champion East Forsyth. The season is only seven games and the regular season is scheduled to end on April 9 with a game at Davie County.
“Top to bottom, it’s going to be talented. That’s what you look for,” Snow said of the conference. “People do a good job coaching. There may be different schemes, but all teams are good, so you’ve just got to be ready to play.”