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North Gwinnett 34, Brookwood 10

SUWANEE - It lacked excitement. It lacked flash. Not much looked like North Gwinnett.

Exiting halftime with a 28-10 lead, North Gwinnett had controlled its first round playoff game against Brookwood. It showed how much with its first drive of the second half.

The Bulldogs, typically full of flash and pop, drove the ball 88 yards in 12 plays, sucking 6:21, more than half, the third quarter away. One play went for 34 yards. No other was longer than 20 and most were less than 10. They threw one pass on the drive, a screen to Tyler Jarry that went to the 1-yard line. Mikey Tamburo rushed it in from there for the Boise State commit's fourth rushing touchdown of the game. He also threw for a touchdown.

The drive sucked the energy out of the crowd and out of Brookwood and North cruised from there for a 34-10 win in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.

"That was pretty cool," said North head coach Bob Sphire. "The offensive line wanted to put it on their backs. We just made one play after the other. That kind of put the crescendo on it right there."

The win sends North to the second round of the playoffs against Lassiter at home and sends Brookwood home for the second straight year with a loss against North. It's the Broncos' fifth straight loss to the Suwanee school.

"We have sort of been out of synch on offense the last couple of weeks," Brookwood coach Mark Crews said. "Then tonight we didn't play really well on defense.

"I am proud of our kids. They played hard. They had some chances to quit and they didn't. We had a chance and we went as far as we could."

North hopes to go further.

Its five touchdowns is five more than the Bulldogs scored a week ago in their only region loss of the season against Peachtree Ridge. It was an offensive performance that ignited the whole group.

"We felt like that was our fault and we took it personally," said Tamburo, who rushed for 105 yards and threw for 188. "We knew we could have won that game and we knew in the playoffs we would have to come out stronger than we ever had."

It showed from the opening drive.

On their opening drive, the Bulldogs marched 80 yards in 10 plays in 2:58. They never lost yardage. Tamburo completed 2 of 4 passes four 43 yards and rushed for 34 yards. North converted two third downs, including Tamburo on third-and-goal from the 2, slashing untouched for the score.

"(The offensive line) came off that first series and they just had that look in their eye," Sphire said. "They were asking to put it on them and that is usually a good indication early in the game."

And it continued. On both sides of the ball.

Brookwood went three-and-out and North answered with a 62-yard scoring drive.

The Bulldogs converted another third down and on fourth-and-18 from the 28, Tamburo hit a diving Connor Jenkins in the end zone for a 14-0 lead.

The Broncos got a quick burst on the first play of the second quarter when Allen McCray broke loose from the 49 to cut the deficit in half.

But North's offense answered. Quickly. The Bulldogs drove 80 yards in four plays, with Tamburo scoring on a 30-yard scamper.

Late in the quarter, Brookwood again took advantage of good field position, driving down to the 12, but the Bulldog defense force a 30-yard Wade Brogdon field goal. North held Brookwood to 98 yards in the half. The Broncos ended the game with 153 total yards of offense and just six first downs.

"Our defense really has played well all year," Sphire said. "We have a tendency to give up the big play, but I thought we broke them down on defense."

Even with 2:44 left, North wasn't done, this time using 7 plays to drive 80 yards, capped by another Tamburo touchdown run. Tamburo ended the half with 96 yards rushing, 143 passing and three touchdowns.

Another Brookwood three-and-out started the second half and then came the game-sealing drive.

"The whole offense played lights out," said Jarry, who came a yard short of the end zone on the drive. "(Scoring) really doesn't matter to me that much."

He did rush for 86 yards to go with 105 yards receiving.

"You really want to be hitting on all cylinders," Sphire said, admitting this was the best his team has played all year. "We still have a lot of things we can do better, but I thought our focus for 48 minutes this week was great."