SNELLVILLE - Bob Sphire is new to high school football in the Georgia. Hired in February as North Gwinnett's fourth coach in as many years, the Bulldog coach is quickly making a name for himself and his team.
Sphire led North into Brookwood Community Stadium against the fifth-ranked Broncos and came away with one of the biggest wins in school history as the Bulldogs won 10-3 on Friday.
"In the big scale of things, with it being a non-region game, it really doesn't mean much," said Sphire. "It really starts to count next week."
It's only the fifth loss for Brookwood at home, who advanced to the state finals last season, in the last five years. Brookwood's three-game losing streak is the longest since 2001 when it dropped four in a row. The Broncos now sport an 0-2 start for the first time since 1996, when they won their only state championship.
Meanwhile, North is 2-0 with wins over traditional state powers Walton and Brookwood.
"I'm shocked," North wide receiver Ryan McDaniel said. "It's a great birthday present. Our O-line blocked their butts off all night and our QB made plays. We're shocking the world tonight."
After going three-and-out on its first possession, it took North less than 20 seconds to go 53 yards for a TD. Michael Tamburo hit McDaniel in stride and the senior outraced the Brookwood defense for a 43-yard TD. Chad Gross added the PAT to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 5:38 left in the first quarter.
McDaniel celebrated his 18th birthday with seven catches for 82 yards. Tamburo completed 16 of 24 passes for 154 yards.
"Mikey played a great game and I still haven't opened the whole play book to him," Sphire said. "He's a playmaker and I look forward to really unleashing him."
Brookwood went three-and-out on its next two possessions before the Broncos were able to pick up their only first down of the half on a Demetre Ledlum 15-yard run down the right sideline. However, the drive ended on a Will Gross interception by Marquese Quiles.
With 4:53 left in the half, North used a 13 play, 54-yard drive to reach the Brookwood 7-yard line. On third-and-one, Joe Moore sacked Tamburo for an 11-yard loss to set up a 35-yard field goal. Gross split the uprights to give the Bulldogs a 10-0 lead at the half.
Brookwood punter Dawson Zimmerman was the Broncos' best weapon in the first half. The junior gave North a long field to work with five punts for a 49-yard average.
A North fumble to start the second quarter sparked the Brookwood sideline. The Broncos went 32 yards on six plays only to see the drive fizzle out at the 30-yard line. Brookwood settled for a 46-yard field goal attempt by Zach Simmons, but the kick was no good.
On Brookwood's next possession, the Broncos mounted a 13-play, 53-yard drive and had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Zach Simmons to avoid the shutout.
On the ensuing possession, Brookwood linebacker Rennie Curran made a big stop on third down to give the Broncos the ball back for one final drive. However, three plays later, Gross was intercepted again, this time by Cameron Demps.
Curran finished with 10 tackles and Patrick Moran had five stops.
"I think we played pretty well on defense," Brookwood coach Mark Crews said. "I think we enjoyed a little too much the press clippings we got after last week's game telling us how good we are, but someone forgot to tell North Gwinnett that."
The North defense keyed on Ledlum all night, but the senior was still able to rush for 106 yards on 26 carries. Eloka Anyaorah led the Bulldogs' defense with eight tackles and two sacks and Jasper Williams had six tackles and two sacks.
"Our passing game is what wore them out," McDaniel said. "Passing that much all night and having to run all over the field wears you down and you can't contain it."