EAST BEND - Forbush’s season-opening showdown Friday night with local rival Elkin will have a different feel to it.
With the recent realignment passed down by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, the two squads are no longer Mountain Valley Conference foes. Instead, the teams will square off in a non-conference tilt to kick off the season, a move that head coach Chris Johnson described as a “bitter pill to swallow.”
“For many reasons, the move is one that we didn’t like,” he said during summer practices. “It was a bitter pill to swallow to think that lead stayed intact, with the exception of us. With that league, you have some 2As and 1As, and the league we’re going into is exclusively a 2A league.
“If we had our say, we would have stayed put. … But we are where we are. Each night, we’re going to have to be ready to play.”
The Falcons, coming off a tough 1-9 season, join the newly-formed 2A Western Piedmont Athletic Conference with five other local schools: Surry Central, North Surry, West Stokes, South Stokes and Carver.
“I think we can compete with everybody in our league,” Johnson said, looking forward to the season. “It is top-heavy. You have West Stokes that is two years removed from a state championship, Carver is always a perennial power in the 2A level, and North Surry and South Stokes who have been playoff teams in the past in the 2A classification. And what Surry Central does offensively is so hard to prepare for.
“It is a tough league, but I think we’re getting to the point where we should be able to play and compete with each and every one of those teams,” he added.
South Stokes, West Stokes and North Surry all finished 5-2 in the 2A/1A Northwest Conference a year ago earning bids into the state playoffs. Surry Central missed the postseason despite a 2-5 record.
Even with the move to a new league, the Falcons will play four current Mountain Valley Conference clubs during the season, starting with the Buckin’ Elks in the season opener.
Forbush will also take on North and East Wilkes with the headliner being the annual meeting with county rival Starmount in the Unifi Bowl on Sept. 13.
“The Unifi Bowl hasn’t been competitive since I’ve been here. It’s one the kids and the community look forward to, and they’re not going to look forward to it anymore if we don’t give them a better challenge than what we’ve given them in the past,” Johnson said. “We look forward to facing them to see how we measure up. We envy their success and we’re going to work hard to be their equal.”
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.