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North takes momentum into Region 7 opener

Four or five years ago, Bob Sphire talked with some of his fellow head coaches in Kentucky about football in metro Atlanta.

The other coaches spoke specifically about Gwinnett County, and in detail about two perennial powers, Parkview and Brookwood. So Sphire, now in his first season as North Gwinnett's head coach, has known about Brookwood's tradition for years.

He got to experience it firsthand last Friday, and the result was outstanding for the visiting Bulldogs, who scored a 10-3 win that many in the Georgia football community didn't predict.

"I don't have any illusions that anybody outside our (North) circle thought we'd win the game," Sphire said. "Maybe a former player or a parent thought we might win the game. But nobody thought we'd win except for the ones in the locker room. And they're the ones that matter."

North has passed its first two major tests of the Sphire era with wins over Walton and Brookwood, both on the road. Now the next challenge is the home opener - and Region 7-AAAAA opener - this Friday at home vs. Mill Creek.

It's tough to come back from such an emotional win, but Sphire hopes his past experience helps out. He built a traditional power in Kentucky at Lexington Catholic and took it to great heights, so getting his players refocused after a big win is nothing new.

"This isn't my first rodeo trying to manage success," Sphire said. "We saw that building the program at Lexington Catholic. As you win, the bandwagon starts to swell. We're glad people in the community want a piece of us now. They want to identify themselves with the program. That's where you want to be. But managing the success is an important factor, and I'm certainly cognizant of that.

"I don't know whether (getting back down to earth) will be a problem or not. We'll find out."

Sphire and his coaches couldn't help but be encouraged by last week's effort vs. the Broncos, which saw the Michael Tamburo-led offense do good things against a very talented Brookwood defense. The Bulldogs moved the ball well and had opportunities to score more points than they did.

But the defense was even

better.

From Jasper Williams' sack on the first play, the unit set the tone. The coach also praised the strong play of his defensive linemen Eric Eberhardt, Steve Buffington and Robert Pritchard along with linebackers Eloka Anyaorah and Chris Knox.

All in all, it's been a pretty good start for the Sphire era at North.

"Everybody's giving these kids a lot of kudos and they deserve them, not me," Sphire said. "And these assistant coaches have done a yeoman's job. They've come in here and prepared these kids well."