North Forrest senior quarterback Leon Jones (8). Photo/Zac Chamblee

It’s not how you start but instead how you finish. Still, after back-to-back sluggish starts to seasons in 2016 and 2017, North Forrest coach Anthony Dillon hoped his Eagles could start strong in addition to finishing this year. 

“That was one thing that I preached about before the season,” said Dillon. 

In 2016, Dillon’s Eagle started 0-5 before getting on a roll and winning their district. Last season, they went 0-2 the first two weeks before winning 9 of 12 regular and postseason games, and making it to the third round of the Class 2A playoffs. 

With plenty of experience back from that team, they opened the 2018 season on Aug. 17 against Lumberton with hopes of picking up a statement win. 

“That’s one thing we really shot for this year, trying to get that first win on opening night of football,” added Dillon. “But once again, it didn’t happen.”

Dillon’s team lost that one and their next two games by a combined 145-41 on the way to another less-than-ideal start at 0-3. 

This past Friday, North Forrest picked up their first win over winless Sacred Heart, 49-13. Though the Crusaders do appear inexperienced and down at several key spots, Dillon is hoping the win can be the start of yet another turnaround for his Eagles. 

“Anytime you don’t have a win in the win column, you’re always looking forward to one,” said Dillon. “It doesn’t matter how you get it or how many points it was. A win is a win, and hopefully we can pile some more up in there.

“Hopefully we can get it going just like we did last year and make a run at this thing again.”

Playing without two of their top offensive weapons in Eric Robinson and Rhyen Brisco, the Eagles jumped out to a 42-0 lead at the half against the Crusaders. Dillon says both players were in the concussion protocol, and that other players, including quarterback Leon Jones, stepped up in their absence. Defensively, Tra’Jen Anderson also had a pick-six for the Eagles, who put up just one more touchdown in the second half en route to the win. 

“There was an opportunity for some of the younger guys to step up and show some of their talents,” said Dillon. “They actually stood up to the plate.”

Now at 1-3, North Forrest turns its attention to a familiar foe, Enterprise. The teams played one another twice last season, and the Eagles came out on top both times, including in the second round of the 2A playoffs. The Bulldogs may be 0-4, but Dillon is not taking their run-heavy offense and their want for revenge lightly. 

“I know they [Enterprise] are going to have a bitter taste in their mouth for last year,” said Dillon. “I told our guys that we would have to stop the run to be successful this Friday.”

As for injuries, Robinson practiced on Tuesday and, unlike Brisco, is expected to play Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm at North Forrest. 

“It’s Homecoming, so hopefully they’ll be pumped up about that along with last week’s win,” added Dillon. “Hopefully we can keep the streak alive.”