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North, Buford title games dream for Hosch

Todd Hosch knows the history of North Gwinnett football well.

The school opened in 1958. Its football program didn't make the playoffs until 1996, also the first time the school won more than seven games in a season.

Hosch was a part of those tough years as the Bulldogs' starting quarterback in 1980 and 1981, both 5-5 seasons. So he's fully enjoying North's run to Saturday's Class AAAAA state championship game.

He would love to watch that AAAAA game at Lowndes. But Hosch has some pretty important plans of his own. His son, Twoey, is the starting quarterback for Buford's football team.

And Buford just happens to be in the AA state finals on Saturday. It's a pretty sweet double for the elder Hosch, whose alma mater and son may both win the state championship on the same evening.

"It's a neat deal," Hosch said of this week. "North Gwinnett, that whole community and school, is deserving. They've had a lot of good athletes come through there. They were always so close and Coach (Bob) Sphire and his staff have done an excellent job. They've got that place powerful. They're going to be a team to be reckoned with for a long time now. They'll be like Buford. They don't rebuild. They just reload.

"I just feel blessed with Buford. The whole family does, that Twoey has the opportunity to play at Buford. I know he's worked hard at it. All of those kids have. It's going to be something else if they can pull this off."

It's even odder that Hosch will be wearing Buford's green and gold on Saturday, considering his background. He and his wife Terry, his high school sweetheart and a former North basketball player, grew up as Bulldogs. That usually meant being anti-Buford.

"It was just part of it, you grew up to hate Buford," Hosch said.

Until the last decade when their enrollments became more drastically different, Buford and North were bitter rivals. Hosch and his North teammates played baseball at Buford, because North had no baseball league. He said Buford's kids played football at North, because the Wolves didn't have a youth football team.

"So we would all play together," Hosch said. "We were like brothers. When we would play games in high school football, it was like going against your brother or your cousin. It was pretty heated. It would be nice if those two could play each other now. It would be one for the ages, especially this year with the teams those two have."

More than a quarter century ago, Hosch thought he was going to be a part of history on North's first playoff team. But a 13-12 loss at Oconee County kept that from happening.

He remembers the finish vividly. He threw a two-point conversion pass to teammate Timmy Lewis, who caught the ball for an apparent lead.

"(Lewis) got hit late and dropped the ball," Hosch said. "We were already celebrating. Then the officials called it incomplete. Of course the game was at Oconee."

Injuries turned a North team with potential into a 5-5 squad for Hosch's senior season. It wasn't a whole lot different for his older brother Scott, the Bulldogs' starting QB in 1975 and 1976 (when the school went 2-8 and 6-4). Both brothers were three-sport athletes who never got to the football playoffs.

But that's North's history. Mediocre and bad teams have piled up until the last four seasons.

Hosch loves North's rise, just not quite as much as he's thrilled by what's happening in Buford. His son Twoey is a second-generation Gwinnett QB, and another son is coming to the Wolves - Hosch's eighth-grade son Scotty is a QB.

"You never know if your son is even going to play football," said Hosch, who played college baseball at Mercer with, among others, Mill Creek coach Doug Jones. "But my brother was a high school quarterback. In little league I became a quarterback. (Twoey) started out in football when he was 6 as a tight end. He started playing quarterback when he was 8. He didn't even start. He was a backup. I always kid people and say that he'll never be as good as his dad. But I think he's probably got me."

Buford's 6 p.m. kickoff against Lovett means that Hosch will miss seeing the North game live on Georgia Public Broadcasting. He likely won't leave Buford in time to see much if any of the Bulldogs' game at Lowndes.

However, he hopes to get update phone calls from his cousin, a North booster.

"I'm just so proud of North Gwinnett that they have this opportunity," Hosch said. "I hope North Gwinnett can pull this thing out and of course Buford, too. I think that's pretty amazing high schools that are probably five or six miles apart are both playing for a state championship."

Even more amazing for a guy whose heart pulls him to both places.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.