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WALTON AT NORTH GWINNETT

North head coach Bob Sphire wasn't pleased with how his scrimmage against Prattville (Ala.) ended last Saturday - the Lions, ranked No. 8 by USA Today, scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes of their 36-3 win - but he definitely saw some good things in the regionally televised exhibition.

North's defensive line, including preseason All-County performer Eric Eberhardt, wreaked havoc on the Lions' offense for much of the game. "I thought there were some positives to build off of in terms of effort," he said, "and playing with the right kind of defensive passion."

It was the offense, or lack thereof, that was the real disappointment for Sphire on Saturday. But the Bulldogs should be able to move the ball a lot more consistently tonight. Because as much as Walton improved at the tail end of last season - the Raiders lost to Norcross by just a touchdown in the first round of the playoffs - Walton isn't Prattville. "I know enough about Walton to know that the difference between the team we played 12 months ago and now is night and day," Sphire said. "They've really grown up. And they're more experienced than what we played last year."

Last meeting: North won 27-16 last season

Directions to North Gwinnett High School: From I-85, go west on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road until it becomes Suwanee Dam Road. School is on the right.