EAST BEND — Falcons and Cardinals are two vastly different birds when it comes to size and all around strength. Falcons tend to be bigger and stronger than Cardinals, they are also a bird of prey while the Cardinals are just pretty to look at.
On Friday night under the lights at Forbush High School, the East Wilkes Cardinals proved their mascot is more than just a “red bird.” East Wilkes came out firing on all cylinders in the first quarter and never looked back as it took a 48-19 win over the Forbush Falcons.
“I felt like we came out a little flat in the first half and we made a few mistakes early,” said East Wilkes head coach Jonathon Wilmoth. “I’ve said all along that I think Forbush is a good football team. They are young and they are a good football team. They are big up front, so they pushed us around and gave us some issues.”
The Cardinals received to start off the game and went eight plays for 19 yards before having to punt the ball away. East Wilkes started off the drive with a run by Brayson Church, who took the ball 17 yards for a first down at the 49-yard line. From there, Jayveon Ross had a carry down the field, but it was brought back due to a block in the back by the Cardinals.
On first-and-7, Caeden Howell once again handed the ball off to Church, who ran for 6 yards to bring up second-and-1. The Cardinals were unable to gain yardage on the next play and ended up losing 2 yards. An incomplete pass by Howell on third-and-3 brought up fourth down for East Wilkes.
With the ball on the 41-yard line, the Cardinals decided to go for it on fourth and two. Church grabbed the hand-off from Howell and made his way through a flock of Falcons to gain 6 yards for a first down. East Wilkes struggled to make its way down the field after the run, as the Cardinals had a false start and three incomplete passes. The punting team was brought on for East Wilkes and the ball was spotted at the 10-yard line for Forbush’s first drive of the game.
The Falcons started off its drive on a downhill slide, as Casey Graham fumbled the ball on the hand-off but was able to recover it for a loss of 2 yards. On second-and-12, Graham put the ball in Dillon Johnson’s hands who found a hole in the defense to gain 4 yards.
On third-and-8 from the 13-yard line, Graham put the ball into the air looking for a Forbush receiver. When the ball came down, Sean Sidden was waiting and successful completed the interception. Sidden was able to use his speed and agility to make his way past several Forbush defenders before being brought down by Mason Coe at the 1-yard line.
It took East Wilkes only two plays before they found the end zone. Howell gave the ball to Jayveon Ross who pushed his way across the goal line for a 12-yard touchdown run. With 5:44 left in the first quarter, the Cardinals took a 6-0 lead over Forbush.
On the kick-off, the Cardinals came out and put down an onside kick which they recovered at the 47 yard-line. Although East Wilkes recovered the kick, the next play saw Forbush get the ball back.
Howell went up for a pass down field, and instead of finding a red jersey, the ball found the hands of Landon Rockett. Rockett was able to come down with the ball for a Forbush interception.
The Falcons couldn’t build off of the interception, as East Wilkes’ defense came up strong on the line. Forbush found two first downs, but the drive stalled at the 25-yard line and the Falcons were forced to punt. As the first quarter went on, neither team was able to add to the scoreboard and the quarter ended 6-0 in East Wilkes’ favor.
As the second quarter came around, Forbush was able to put down an impressive drive with 10 plays, 65 yards and a touchdown. The drive started with yards in favor of the Falcons with Graham and Johnson both putting in hard work for a first down. On second-and-14, Graham threw a pass to Landreth Cockerham for a 15-yard pass reception. The ball was spotted at the 37-yard line and the Falcons kept chipping away until they entered the end zone.
On second-and-5 from the 7, Graham gave the ball to Dasaun Dalton, who drilled his way through the middle of the field for a Forbush touchdown. The extra-point attempt was blocked, but the Falcons had tied the game 6-6 with 8:04 left before halftime.
While the Falcons were still reeling from the tying touchdown, the Cardinals came out with one thing in mind — to get the lead back. It only took three plays for East Wilkes to do what they had intended. On second-and-9 from the 49, Howell and Church connected in the backfield for a hand-off play. Church was able to break several tackles and befuddle the Forbush defense while making his way down the field. As he crossed the 30-yard line, Church broke away from the onslaught on Falcons and was able to take the ball into the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown.
The Cardinals went for the two-point conversion and Howell once again found Church who caught the ball for a successful completion. With less than five minutes remaining before the half, East Wilkes took a 14-6 lead over the Falcons.
Forbush was able to put together a successful drive which ended in a red and blue touchdown. Went 60-yards down the field before Johnson put himself across the goal line for a one-yard touchdown. The Falcons failed their two-point conversion and the score remained 14-12 in East Wilkes’ favor as the game headed to halftime.
During halftime, lightning made it way into the area which caused a weather delay. The stadium was emptied and the teams made their way to the locker room to wait out the passing storm. The delay lasted just under an hour and teams returned to the field around 9:30 p.m. for the second half kick-off.
“We got tired and I think the extended halftime right there with the storm gave us new life,” said Wilmoth. “We had some breaks early and it broke the game open.”
The weather delay proved to be vital for one team, while the other came out flat and struggled on both sides of the ball. East Wilkes was able to make the most of the prolonged halftime as they recovered an onside kick at the 46-yard line. From there, the Cardinals drive down the field until Ross was able to put the ball into the end zone with a 20-yard run. The extra point was good and East Wilkes had started the third quarter in high fashion.
Forbush was stalled on its next drive as the Falcons went three and out and were forced to punt the ball away.
East Wilkes took over at the 36-yard line and things once again fell into place for the red and black. It took three plays for the Cardinals to score another touchdown. East Wilkes set up its offense for a pass, and as the pocket was collapsing, Howell made his way to the right side of the field. In the end zone, Garrett Vernon had evaded his defender and was wide open. Howell spotted Vernon and threw the ball into the air. Vernon was able to make a diving catch for a 19-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was no good as it went wide left, but the Cardinals had a 27-12 lead with 7:44 left in the third quarter.
“I think it was a combination of getting it done in the run game and finally finding our way in the pass game,” said Wilmoth on if he thought their were any key plays for the Cardinals.
As the third quarter rolled on, so did the Cardinals. East Wilkes was able to score on its next drive as Ross walked into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown.
With 3:52 left in the third, Forbush was able to put together a drive that ended across the goal line. Graham found the hands of a wide open Tavon Martin on the left side of the field. Martin evaded one tackle then put himself in the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown. The extra point by Dalton was good, and the Falcons cut East Wilkes’ lead to 35-19.
The touchdown by Martin would be the last time Forbush found the end zone, but it wouldn’t be the last time a touchdown was score. The Cardinals came out strong on the kick-off as Vernon returned the ball for an 80-yard touchdown run. It was the nail in the coffin for the Falcons, as East Wilkes had a 42-19 lead.
The final touchdown of the night was scored with less than eight minutes remaining in the game. Trey Lambert came in at quarterback for East Wilkes, and helped his team make their way down the field. On second-and-goal, Lambert gave the ball to Jesse Aguilar who ran into the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point was good by Blaine Wagoner, and the Cardinals took a 48-19 lead over Forbush.
The final few plays of the game saw neither team make it across midfield. As the clock ran out, the Cardinals had turned East Bend red and black for the night with a 48-19 win over Forbush.
“I wouldn’t say we are hitting our stride, but I think we are starting to come in and know what the offense is about,” said Wilmoth. “Same thing defensively. We settled in back to our base right there in the second half and our kids started playing fast, which is important.”
With the loss, Forbush moves to 0-3 overall. The Falcons will travel to Starmount (0-3) on Friday night for the Unifi Bowl. East Wilkes is now 2-1 overall and the Cardinals will travel to Walkertown (1-2) on Friday night.