One game. That’s all Roswell needed to vanquish the demons and silence the critics who haunted them for the majority of their second consecutive losing season. 3-7 is not a record to be boast about, but a 28-24 win against a playoff bound 7-2 Walton Raider squad? That is legendary.
Coming into Friday’s night contest against the Walton Raiders, Roswell was automatically pegged the underdogs. A David and Goliath comparison seems somewhat necessary, considering Walton came to Ray Manus Stadium Friday night 7-2, losing only to North Cobb and Lassiter. Unfortunately for the Walton Raiders, they left the Hornet’s Nest Friday with the "sting."
After an opening drive that saw the Raiders enter the end zone on a 34-yard touchdown pass, senior quarterback Ryan Monty rallied Roswell back with a touchdown pass of his own. Coming off consecutive sacks, Monty evaded an incoming Raider pass rush and completed a stunning 85-yard catch and run touchdown pass to fellow senior Bennett Barton.
Walton quickly climbed atop Roswell in the second half, scoring two rushing touchdowns and increasing their lead to 21-7. Throughout the first half, Walton dominated the Hornet’s defense with a potent rushing attack. Even without future Alabama Crimson Tide running back Tyren Jones, who was lost for the season with a torn MCL, the Raider ground game, lead by DJ Smith, managed to gash the Hornet’s defense for 176 yards on 27 carries.
Luckily for Roswell, the Hornets came out a completely different team in the second half. After having no answers for the run in the first half, the Roswell defense completely shut down the Walton rushing attack, limiting the talented offense to 46 yards on 14 carries.
With the defense playing at such a high level, Monty connected yet again with Barton for the duos second touchdown of the night, this time from fifty yards out. Trailing only 14-21, safety turned linebacker Grant Beidel made possibly one of the biggest plays of the Hornets three-month season. Beidel, dropped in coverage, undercut a Raider route in the flat and intercepted Walton quarterback Parker McLeod’s pass, returning it 26 yards for a momentous Hornet touchdown.
With momentum shifting wildly in Roswell’s favor, the Hornets tacked on a third score, all of which came in a two minute span, after sophomore running back Mechane Slade diced his way into the end zone on a 51-yard touchdown run. Leading Walton 28-21, the Roswell defense clamped down, only allowing three points in the entire second half and paving the way to one of the biggest upsets of the season.
Ryan Monty, who has been reliable all season, completed his senior campaign with a bang Friday night against Walton. Monty, who sports a completion percentage of over 65 percent this season, completed nine of his 14 pass attempts Friday night, passing for two touchdowns against the Walton secondary.
Monty’s partner in crime and go to guy, Bennett Barton, had himself a night to remember as well in his last game as a Roswell Hornet. Barton caught five of Monty’s nine pass completions for a total of 225 yards and two touchdowns, one of 85 yards and another of 50 yards. Monty and Barton have been a big play duo all season long, often times being the catalyst of the offense.
Unfortunately, senior Andrew Kwateng’s night was somewhat somber. Kwateng, often considered the Hornets bell cow on offense, left the game in the third quarter with a left leg injury, possibly having to do with his left knee. After suffering the injury Kwateng, a three year varsity contributor, sported crutches while watching the Hornets storm back in the second half. Currently with an offer from Wofford and interest from various other schools such as Navy, Richmond and Furman, Kwateng had an outstanding season as the Hornet’s leading rusher, rushing for 1,584 yards and twelve touchdowns.
For Roswell, tonight was about much more than the closure of a season. For 34 of the 82 members of the active roster, this was the end of an era. The seniors of the team played their last game as a Hornet Friday night, suiting up in black and green for the very last time. For seniors, football, Hornet football specifically, has been a part of their lives for the better part of six years. To give that all up and reach a culmination of a great journey is anything but easy. A win against Walton is bittersweet for the graduating class of 2013, but a upset special against one of the best teams in the region will certainly leave a mark on the departing members of the team for years, or possibly decades, to come.
So what now for Roswell? Unfortunately for head coach Justin Sanderson and the rest of the Roswell football program, the team is going to suffer some major losses as the class of 2013 graduates. Forty-one percent of the team, which includes the 34 seniors listed to the active squad, will need to be replaced come next August. Key pieces such as Monty, Barton, Kwateng, Beidel, John Albert, Zach Adams, Kevin Austin, Hunter Hill, Demetrick Sodo, and Alex Brandeis will all need to be replaced.
The biggest holes will be on the offensive side of the ball, where the Hornets are losing their starting quarterback, running back, number one and two starting wide receivers, and a giant portion of the offensive line. As far as a quarterback for next year, coach Sanderson is not yet committed to a replacement to Ryan Monty, whether it is sophomore James Whitaker or junior Matt Cory. Mechane Slade, a shifty and elusive runner, will see “significant playing time,” according to head coach Sanderson. While a change in the long tenured Hornet’s offensive scheme is unlikely, Sanderson does not rule out a possible change in the offensive game plan, considering the struggles the team encountered with consistency this season. As with most new seasons, the 2013 season will likely be one of great change for the Roswell football program. With the aide of supportive and dedicated fan base, no change will be too great for the Hornets to conquer in their 63rd season of competition in the fall of 2013.