Ever since Bob Sphire took over as North Gwinnett's head football coach, teams have struggled to stop his spread offense.
The Bulldogs have averaged nearly 30 points in Sphire's three years at the Suwanee school.
But if there's anyone that might know a way to slow down the Bulldogs' offense, it's Lassiter's Jeff Carlberg. The Trojans' defensive coordinator spent nine years as Sphire's defensive coordinator when the two coached at Lexington Catholic in Kentucky.
The two will meet again tonight when North Gwinnett hosts Lassiter in the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs. The winner will play the winner of the Tift County-Newnan game next week.
"I told him the other day 'you can just come over and watch one of our games, you don't have to come over here and bloody our nose,'" Sphire said of his longtime friend and adult softball league teammate.
"Jeff does a great job and is a heck of a football coach."
So who has the upper hand in this battle of former colleagues? They both know each other's tendencies and what their teams are capable of doing.
"That's the million dollar question. It's like a chess match," Sphire said. "If you love high school football this is the kind of game you want to see. They are a spread offense and an attacking defense just like us. We are like mirror images."
First-year Lassiter head coach Chip Lindsey has the Trojans in the playoffs for the first time since 2000. Lindsey spent the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Hoover (Ala.) High School of MTV's "Two-A-Days" fame.
Lassiter is in the second round after it rallied from a 14-point deficit to win the first state playoff game in school history. The Trojans upset No. 1 seed Etowah 23-20 in overtime in the first round.
North advances to the second round for the fourth time in five years and the third in a row under Sphire after a 34-10 win over Brookwood.
Just days after committing to Boise State, North quarterback Mikey Tamburo had a huge day. The senior was 12 of 17 passing for 188 yards and a passing TD to go with 105 yards rushing and four rushing scores.
"If I'd known he was going to play like that after he committed I would have asked him to commit sooner," Sphire joked. "He played a great game."
It was North's second win over Brookwod this season and fifth in three years over the Broncos. It was not just the victory Sphire was pleased with, but the way the Bulldogs played after losing to Peachtree Ridge the week before for the Region 7-AAAAA championship.
"That's the most complete game we've played so far," Sphire said. "That Peachtree Ridge loss really served us well. To play a great team like that at the end of the year really got us ready."
SideBar: LASSITER AT NORTH GWINNETT
Who: Lassiter Trojans (6-AAAAA) at North Gwinnett Bulldogs (7-AAAAA)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: North Gwinnett High School (From I-85, go west on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road until it becomes Suwanee Dam Road. School is on the right)
Coaches: Chip Lindsey, Lassiter; Bob Sphire, North Gwinnett
Records: Lassiter 9-2; North Gwinnett 9-2
Last week: Lassiter beat Etowah 23-20 in overtime; North Gwinnett beat Brookwood 34-10
Winner plays: Tift County-Newnan winner
North Gwinnett Leaders:
· Rushing: Tyler Jarry, 736 yards
· Passing: Mikey Tamburo, 1,811 yards
· Receiving: Jarry, 604 yards
· Tackles: Zach Humphrey, 91
· Interceptions: Humphrey and Robert Nelson, 2