SUWANEE - With starting quarterback Michael Tamburo knocked out of the game, North Gwinnett's Tyler Jarry and the Bulldogs' offensive line took over.
North's line gave backup Patrick Thompson plenty of time to complete a 30-yard pass. Then Jarry used a hard-fought touchdown run to seal a 31-19 win over Peachtree Ridge on Friday at Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium.
"We knew we had to win this game for Mikey," Jarry said. "When we put Patrick Thompson in we knew he would do a great job, but our offensive line was phenomenal. I owe it all to them."
The win puts No. 2 North Gwinnett (7-0, 5-0) in sole possession of first place in Region 7-AAAAA with three games left in the regular season. Fourth-ranked Peachtree Ridge (5-2, 4-1) drops to a three-way tie with Mill Creek and Norcross for second place.
Peachtree Ridge's Derrick Bryant (eight tackles, fumble recovery) slammed Tamburo to the ground after running for a 19-yard gain with 10:56 left in the game. The junior QB hit his head hard and was knocked out with a concussion.
Thompson came in and didn't skip a beat. He completed a 30-yard pass to Cordero Dixon (3-113) and then another 10-yard pass to Dixon to put North at the 20.
That's where Jarry and offensive line took over. Jake Thomas, Clint Duggan, Matt Lapointe, Austin Shepherd, Clint Hannah and Scott McQueen cleared the way the next 20 yards as Jarry scored on an eight-yard TD run with 4:53 left in the game.
"I was so determined I knew I had to score," Jarry said. "I was just so determined to score for Mikey and finish the game strong. I didn't want to be stopped."
Jarry finished with 16 carries for 59 yards, with 32 of those yards coming on the that drive.
"My definition of a balanced offense is distributing the ball to skill position players," North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire said. "But sometimes you just have to put it on the back of your playmakers and (Jarry) took care of that."
Tamburo was 7 of 12 for 148 yards and 57 yards rushing. He had three touchdowns - two rushing and one passing.
After jumping out to a 17-0 halftime lead it looked like North Gwinnett was going to walk away easily with a win.
On North's first possession of the second half, Tamburo hit Dixon for a 73-yard touchdown pass.
Peachtree Ridge's drive stalled when Eric Eberhardt recorded one of his four sacks on the night. He also had eight tackles.
But Peachtree Ridge's Ronnie Smith was able to recover a fumble on North's 21, giving the Lions their best field position of the night.
Brandon Davis got out to the left sideline and got a good block from receiver Mitchell Williford for a 26-yard score.
Kevin Minter's sack forced the Bulldogs to punt and let the Lions' offense go back to work. Minter finished with 11 tackles.
This time Davis (12-67) got a 20-yard touchdown and after the kick failed, the visitors trailed 24-13 with 1:39 left in the quarter.
Peachtree Ridge got the ball back again and Antonio Hayes broke loose in the middle of the field for a 49-yard score and the Lions were back in the game.
"Anybody that didn't think they would bounce back at halftime was crazy," Sphire said. "We've played fast all year, up-tempo, gusto with some teams. But we've still not played a complete 48 minutes."
But on the North's next possession, Tamburo was injured and that's when Jarry and the O-line took over.
"We had a little breakdown with our tackling for a moment," Eberhardt said. "But I've got to give credit to the offense on that last drive for keeping them off the field."
North's Marquese Quiles ended any chance of Peachtree Ridge comeback with his county-leading sixth interception in the final minutes. Eloka Anyaorah led North with nine tackles and one sack.
Tamburo began the game with a 56-yard pass to Jarry down the right sideline. Two plays later, Tamburo jumped over the goal line for the score.
After the North defense held strong again and Asher Clark's shanked punt, that gave the Bulldogs the ball at the 28. Once again it was Tamburo, this time with his legs. The junior broke loose for a 19-yard TD run and the Bulldogs were quickly up 14-0 with 2:06 left in the first quarter.
Again with good field position at the 35, North was unable to move the ball for the first time of the game. The Bulldogs settled for a 52-yard field goal by Kyle Micek, who was also 4 of 4 on PATs with four touchbacks to give North a 17-0 lead.
"I think the reason why we play so well is we have come together as a team," Eberhardt said. "If one of us plays well we all play well and we come out with a win."
NORTH GWINNETT 31
PEACHTREE RIDGE 19
-North Gwinnett: Michael Tamburo 1 run (Kyle Micek kick) 5:07
-North Gwinnett: Tamburo 19 run (Micek kick) 2:06
-North Gwinnett: Micek 52 FG, 11:46
-North: Cordero Dixon 73 pass from Tamburo (Micek kick) 10:35
-Peachtree Ridge: Brandon Davis 26 run (Greg Johnson kick) 6:09
-Peachtree Ridge: Davis 20 run (kick no good) 1:39
-Peachtree Ridge: Antonio Hayes 49 run (2 pt conv failed) 11:48
-North Gwinnett: Tyler Jarry 8 run (Micek kick) 4:53
9-54 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING - Peachtree Ridge: Brandon Davis 12-67; Asher Clark 15-28;
Ronnie Smith 2-12; Antonio Hayes 3-(-1). North Gwinnett: Michael Tamburo
13-57; Tyler Jarry 16-59; Kirtley Dovel 6-51; Kevin Starks 3-24.
PASSING - Peachtree Ridge: Asher Clark 2-11-1, 15. North Gwinnett:
Tamburo 7-12-0, 148; Michael Thompson 2-2-0, 40; Jarry 0-1-0.
RECEIVING - Peachtree Ridge: Michael Williford 1-8; Cameron Demps 1-7.
North Gwinnett: Cordero Dixon 3-113; Jarry 3-68; Jaison Yoshimura 1-7;
Dovel 1-0; Starks 1-0.