4 Questions with Forsyth County News sports editor David Roberts

Denmark High School in Forsyth County opened in 2018
Denmark High School in Forsyth County opened in 2018

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Today’s interviewee is Forsyth County News sports editor David Roberts. Forsyth County’s best teams, West Forsyth and Denmark, for the Region 6-7A championship. It will be the second time in history that two Forsyth schools have played in the final game of the regular season with an outright region title on the line, the first since South Forsyth beat Lambert in the 2015 finale.

David Roberts, Forsyth County News sports editor

1. What’s the buzz surrounding the West Forsyth-Denmark game? Why is it a big game for Forsyth County football? “I think one of the reasons it’s such a big game has to do with pride. Milton dominated the Forsyth region the past couple of years, going 10-0 in region play from 2018-19. This year, Gainesville threatened to play that out-of-county spoiler role, but Denmark and West both took care of business. No matter who wins Friday, a Forsyth team is going to win a region championship, and I think that’s a big deal. Denmark has been very successful since opening in 2018 and still doesn’t have a losing season. They’ve played in big region games like this against Blessed Trinity and Marist. I think people expect new programs to take their lumps before winning, so that’s a reason why Denmark has a target on its back. Meanwhile, Denmark made the jump from Class 4A to Class 7A this year. They believe they can hang in the highest classification, and they want to prove that against West.”

2. How do you see the game playing out? Who do you favor, and why? “Well, I think the biggest matchup is West’s defense against Denmark quarterback Aaron McLaughlin. McLaughlin, an N.C. State commit, missed the first couple of games because of a shoulder injury, and Denmark was shut out each time. The Danes’ offense goes as he goes. McLaughlin has the strongest arm I’ve ever seen, and he’s been sensational on the ground this season. He didn’t run at all last week against Gainesville because of a hamstring injury, but Denmark’s offensive line was tremendous and allowed just one sack. McLaughlin still threw three TD passes. Denmark’s talented wide receivers Azari Brown, Teddy Davenport and Casey Gunn will be a true test for West’s secondary. That said, West’s calling card has been its defense under defensive coordinator Bill Ballard. West has 17 sacks in nine games, including four from linebacker Hudson Posey, who also has 17 QB hurries. West’s ability to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable is one of the reasons its defense owns 13 interceptions this season. Another reason is a couple of highly intelligent safeties in Dalton Tjong and Drew Southern. Tjong injured his hand and hasn’t played since the Mill Creek game, but there’s hope he might return. On offense, UGA commit Dylan Fairchild is obviously a mismatch, as is Oscar Delp, who has emerged as one of the nation’s top tight ends. They’ve been pivotal in first-year sophomore QB Kegan Stover’s progression this season. West lost its running back Daba Fofana, a Navy commit and tremendous talent, but a pair of underclassmen in William Orris and Ryder Stewart have impressed while filling that hole.”

3. Both teams have new coaches – Dave Svehla from Etowah at West Forsyth and Mike Palmieri from North Carolina at Denmark. What has been your experience of those coaches? “Those are two impressive, high-level coaches. I grew up in South Carolina, and I got my first newspaper job there, so I was aware of Palmieri before he took the Denmark job. He built the program at Mallard Creek in Charlotte, North Carolina, a team that was always willing to cross into South Carolina and play the state’s top teams. Palmieri has a noticeably thick New York accent, and between that and Lambert head coach Tommy Watson’s south Georgia drawl made, it’s made for some interesting juxtaposition in the south end of the county this season. Svehla’s been a head coach in three different states [Georgia, Illinois, Nebraska], but taking the job at West could be considered something of a homecoming for him. Svehla’s family already lived in Forsyth County, and his two daughters, Taylor and Avery, were standout volleyball players at South Forsyth. Both coaches opened the season in the Corky Kell Classic, and I think West’s 42-6 blowout of Mays really set the tone for Svehla’s inaugural season.”

4. Can you paint a picture of Forsyth County sports and where football fits in there? “Football is still king here. There’s a ton of interest in baseball, basketball and wrestling, and Forsyth schools compete annually for state championships in spring sports such as soccer, lacrosse and tennis [Lambert won the GADA’s all-sports Directors Cup in the highest classification from 2015 to 2018], but people here live and breathe football. Honestly, I think one of the biggest factors Forsyth has going for it is the county’s growth. Forsyth’s population is expected to almost double by 2050 to 440,400 residents. In the span of a decade, South Forsyth High School has seen two schools open in its backyard – Lambert (2009) and Denmark (2018) – which certainly hurts. East Forsyth will open next year, but that’s in the north end of the county, so Lambert, Denmark and South seem safe to continue growing their enrollment numbers. And as the county is able to draw top-level coaches such as Palmieri and Svehla, I think it’s only a matter of time before Forsyth breaks through. The talent is there, as evidenced by wide receiver Ze’Vian Capers playing at Auburn this season as a true freshman. A lot of people still talk about the scare South Forsyth gave Colquitt County in the quarterfinals back in 2015, and I don’t think it’ll be long before another Forsyth school reaches, or surpasses, that mark.”

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