Dallas Margeson, who has thrown for 998 yards and 17 TDs this season, leads the Knights into the state title game tonight. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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WHO: Heritage (11-1) at Deerfield (12-1).
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today.
WHERE: Webb Memorial, Albany.
RADIO: 107.7 FM.
LIVE SCORING UPDATES: twitter.com/AlbHeraldsports.
ALBANY — Patrick Forrestal was trying to find a way to explain it. And the kid with a 3.9 GPA was having trouble.
“It’s right there. It’s just 24 hours away,’’ he said at practice Thursday afternoon. “It’s right there on our fingertips.’’
It’s almost surreal for the kids at Deerfield-Windsor, who have everything they have wanted for so long right in front of them, right there “on their fingertips.’’
That’s what tonight’s GISA Class AAA state title game means to the Knights, who have always felt this was their game, their time.
“We’ve been talking about this for five years, since our eighth-grade year when we went undefeated,’’ said Forrestal, a two-way lineman who has already committed to Navy. “Now we have a chance to do it. We’ve got to do it.’’
For DWS tailback Kh’ron McClain, it’s the end to a long journey back home. McClain left DWS three years ago to live with his father in Atlanta, then came home to Albany last year. He was in the stands as a sophomore, watching Deerfield win the state title two years ago. He stormed the field and hugged the DWS kids in celebration.
Now he’s in the state title game he missed.
“It’s a dream come true,’’ McClain said Thursday. “Playing for the state championship is just a dream come true.’’
A few of the DWS seniors, including Forrestal, played for the 2010 state champs, but this is different. It’s their time, and they could stamp their own mark on DWS history. The seniors have won 47 games in four years. They just need that final exclamation point — a state crown.
“Nothing will mean anything if we don’t win it,’’ said Westin King, a senior who starts on both sides of the line. “This is what we play for.’’
They’re facing a Heritage team that many believe can beat DWS. The Hawks have an explosive offense with a talented running back who strikes fear in every GISA team — and a coach who knows all about Deerfield.
Kevin Prisant, who played for the Allen Lowe and the Knights in 2001 and 2002 then later coached under Lowe as a volunteer, has lifted Heritage to its first state title game. It’s a special homecoming for him.
“I can’t go 30 minutes without hearing about the game. I’m getting emails, calls — everybody is hyping this one up,’’ Prisant said. “My grandparents are all fired up. My dad is very excited. My mom has a huge smile on her face. My sister has been making posters and signs.”
His team rolls into the final after hammering Westfield, 42-10. Westfield finished second to DWS in the region after losing, 28-7, to the Knights. Heritage (10-2) also ripped Stratford, 35-0, this year. DWS beat Stratford, 24-17, last week to reach the final.
“I had a good feeling Deerfield would beat Stratford (last Friday), so I knew immediately when my game was over Friday what was going to happen,” Prisant said.
His entire school is buzzing about the first trip to the title game.
“There are going to be more games for coach Lowe and more games for me,’’ Prisant said. “Some of these players will get just one crack at a state title. This could be their one chance at it, and it’s special to them.”
Lowe knows what Heritage is going through.
“I’m sure they are flying on Cloud 9,’’ he said. “I’m proud for him and his program.’’
The game features two of the best running backs in GISA. Heritage’s Candler Rich has rushed for 1,805 yards on 167 carries and 22 touchdowns and is the bread-and-butter back for Heritage, which has been ranked No. 2 in the state behind No. 1 DWS most of the year. Heritage QB Joe Bonner missed the first five games of the season with a shoulder injury but has completed 42 of 76 passes for 604 yards and 11 TDs since returning.
“They are so explosive,’’ Lowe said. “They can score points from anywhere on the field. We are going to have to play the best defensive game of the year.’’
Good thing Deerfield’s defense has carried the Knights in every big game, and DWS’ offensive is just as explosive.
McClain has rushed for 2,067 yards on 185 carries and 25 touchdowns and has caught 16 passes for 259 yards and seven TDs. KE’Marvin Pitts has rushed for 397 yards and five TDs and has 267 yards and four TDs in receptions.
QB Dallas Margeson has had a solid season running the team and has completed 60 of 109 passes for 998 yards and 17 touchdowns.
But Lowe, whose teams won state titles in 2002, 2008 and 2010, knows his team will have to win the title on the defensive side of the ball.
“Our front seven has been good all year at saying, ‘You are not going to run the ball,’ ” Lowe said. “But they face their biggest challenge in this game.”
Forrestal and King are both on the defensive front, and the two defensive ends have had huge seasons. Matthew Fox has made 91 tackles and set school records in sacks for one season (11) and career sacks (22). The other defensive end, Coleman Butler has also had a big year and has made 56 tackles and has three sacks.
Lowe’s three linebackers have been making big plays every week. Nick Michas leads all of GISA with 112 tackles, including 75 solos, and Noah Horton and Sam Shellhaas lead a defense that swarms the ball. McClain, Pitts and Margeson lead the secondary. They have combined for eight interceptions, including three each by Margeson and Pitts.
Lowe said now is the time to have some fun. His team has won 11 in a row and hasn’t lost a game in Georgia. The Knights (12-1) lost to Florida powerhouse North Florida Christian in the second week of the season and has been rolling since.
“We’ve got 16 seniors, and they grew up in this program and have been a part of a great run over the past four years,’’ Lowe said. “And now this game is the culmination of that and this season. I knew we had a chance to be a very good football team, and we played well. And the last two weeks in the playoffs we got the job done to get here.
“Once you get here, it’s time to take a deep breath and enjoy it. Now this is the fun one. This is what you’re playing for. We’ve done what we had to do, and now we need to close the deal. We are going to have to play as good a game defensively as we have ever played. But this is what we play for. It’s the game they have been looking for, the game they have wanted to play. Now it’s here.’’
Right there on their fingertips.