West Forsyth coach changes mind about controversial finish

Upon further review, West Forsyth coach Frank Hepler said the referees "got it right" with a ruling on one of the state's most controversial -- and sensational -- plays of the season.

Facing a fourth-and-20 with less than a minute remaining, Flowery Branch's Connor Shaw rifled a 42-yard touchdown pass to Robby Boudreau in a 51-47 win over West Forsyth.

The last-second heroics had a huge impact on both teams: Flowery Branch (7-2), which finished at the Class AAA runner-up last year, clinched a playoff berth, while West Forsyth (4-4) was eliminated from postseason consideration.

After the game, Hepler told the Gainesville Times that he "thought [Shaw] was across the line [of scrimmage] there at the end and [the referees] didn't call it, so that's what we've got to go with."

After reviewing the game film into the wee hours of Saturday morning, Hepler told the AJC he changed his stance. "The officials did a great job in getting the call right.

"As a coach, you always want to see things go your team's way, but they got this one right. The referees work a lot more games than I do. I'd say they are right 99.9 percent of time ... or maybe even 100 percent."

Hepler also had hefty praise for Shaw, comparing him to one of his former quarterbacks while coaching in Florida -- Ryan Schneider, Central Florida's second-most accomplished QB in school history after Daunte Culpepper.

"Ryan was a great passer and was tough. That's what Connor is, too. He's tough and can take a hit. We got some pretty good shots at Connor, but he jumped back up like it didn't bother him at all. With all the blitzing at the collegiate level, his toughness will make him a great one."

Shaw, the younger brother of Georgia Tech quarterback Jaybo Shaw, has commited to South Carolina.

>  Both No. 4 Carver-Columbus (7-1) and No. 7 LaGrange (7-1) won to set up Friday's showdown between the two Class AAA powerhouses. Carver's Isaiah Crowell, perhaps the state's most talented junior tailback, had five carries for 137 yards in a 47-8 win over Kendrick. Carver rested its starters after intermission, according to the Columbus Ledger.

> Mary Persons tailback Meshari Walton, who had missed the past three games with an ankle sprain, had the game-winning touchdown run for 11 yards in a  14-7 decision over Woodward Academy. "We felt like if we had Meshari, maybe one of the other games would have been different," coach Rodney Walker told the Macon Telegraph.

> Colquitt County's Rashawn Hunt stripped Warner Robins quarterback Maurice Dudley just before he was about to score to change the game's momentum in a 17-0 upset. The loose ball bounced out of the back of the end zone for a touchback, according to the Moultrie Observer.

> Big numbers: Union County's Kolt Owenby tossed six touchdown passes in a 44-14 win over Dawson County while Chattahoochee County's David Cochran threw for five in a 66-8 win over Stewart County. Meanwhile, West Forsyth's Ben Emert had one of the state's top rushing performances with 352 yards and six touchdowns in the loss to Flowery Branch.