FORSYTH — After cruising through their regular season, the Forsyth Dogies ran into their toughest opponent of the year on Saturday afternoon.
That challenger was the Charlo Vikings. And after the first half of the game, the Vikings looked like they might leave with a road victory.
However, Forsyth held firm, and thanks to 28 unanswered points in the second half, the Dogies prevailed 50-32 to advance to the 8-Man football semifinals.
Forsyth quarterback Caleb Knoche ran for two touchdowns and threw two more to Nathan Weber to lead the comeback charge for the Dogies, who trailed 32-22 at halftime. All four of Knoche's touchdowns came in the second half.
"We'd been in this situation with Circle going into halftime with a good game," Knoche said. "We had to come out and adjust with what they were beating us on and do the best that we could on what we needed to fix."
Weber added: "We all played together that's for sure. We just clicked. Have to give a big shout out to the offensive line. Without them I don't think any of us would have that good of a game. Have to give it to those guys. It's nice to have guys like that on the team."
Forsyth jumped to a 14-0 lead after Logan Martens and Paul Johnstone each found paydirt in the first quarter.
Charlo star junior Landers Smith played a hand in all five of Charlo's touchdowns, running for four and throwing for another, all in the first half. His first touchdown came on a run of 48 yards to open Charlo's scoring.
"At halftime, I just talked to them, believe it or not, calmly," Forsyth coach Shawn Hollowell said. "Everybody from Forsyth thought I was giving a butt-chewing but I didn't. I just said, 'Is this how you want it to end?' And the senior leadership picked up."
The second quarter belonged to Smith and the Vikings. Trailing 22-20 with around a minute left, Charlo got the ball back and in one play, Smith went 62 yards to give the Vikings their first lead of the game. Roughly 48 seconds later, the Vikings had the ball with 2.6 seconds left and Smith found Toby Odom for a deep 31-yard pass to increase the halftime lead.
"At halftime, we said the only way we're going to win is if we come together as a family," Knoche said. "(Hollowell) stressed that all year and we just knew what we had to do when we came back out. We just have to play as a family, as a team and we'll get it done."
That was as far as Charlo got, however, as the second half belonged to Knoche. The senior ran for a touchdown before finding Weber on a 56-yard connection to give Forsyth the lead for good.
"He's our leader," Hollowell said about Knoche. "We go as far as he goes."
Smith finished the game with 270 yards on 22 carries.
"We expected big plays from them," Weber said. "We knew that Landers Smith was a dude and they had three hard-hitting running backs. We knew they were going to get big plays."
Forsyth improves to 11-0 in its debut season in 8-Man and will host defending state champion Ennis next week in the semifinals. Ennis (10-1) defeated Belt 72-36 on Saturday.
Charlo, last year's state runner-up, ends the year at 9-2.
"You never want to end it unless you win the whole thing and at some point every team except for one is going to end on a loss," Charlo coach Mike Krahn said. "We told those (seniors) we've played a lot of football together and they've given us coaches everything they had in every game we've played in. Our boys have never quit and when they leave it on the field that's all we can ask. I'm very proud of our kids for the effort."