0

North Gwinnett 43, Lassiter 21

SUWANEE - For most of the regular season, C.J. Uzomah rarely saw the field as North Gwinnett's backup quarterback.

When star receiver Cordero Dixon went down with a season-ending injury, Uzomah was moved to wideout.

After Friday's game, the sophomore may have found a permanent position.

Uzomah had three touchdowns, including two leaping grabs in the corner of the end zone in North's 43-21 win over Lassiter in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.

"Honestly, I had no idea that was going to happen," said the 6-foot-5 Uzomah, who had five catches for 100 yards. "But I'm glad it did."

North Gwinnett will play at Newnan (12-0) in a rematch of last year's quarterfinal, which the Bulldogs won 38-35. Newnan defeated Tift County 42-0 in Friday's second-round game.

North Gwinnett (10-2) built a 15-7 first-half lead all on special teams points and in the second half came out clicking on offense.

"It was an all-around game," North quarterback Mikey Tamburo said. "Special teams made some big plays, defense really stepped it up and that gave us the confidence to come out in the second half a lot stronger."

In a game that featured two potent offenses, the teams didn't disappoint in the second half. Of the nine second-half possessions, six resulted in touchdowns and there was only one punt.

"To be honest, I was surprised it wasn't a higher score," North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphire said. "You've got two teams with spread offenses and both teams are attack, attack, attack."

The Bulldogs began the third quarter with Tamburo connecting with Uzomah for 45 yards on the first of his three touchdown catches.

"With Cordero Dixon being gone for the season we were really struggling for that deep ball threat and boy did he show some skills on that tonight," Sphire said.

After a Lassiter punt, Tamburo found Uzomah again in the corner of the end zone for a nice 12-yard leaping grab to make it 29-7.

Lassiter's Hutson Mason connected with Taylor Crowder on fourth down for a 35-yard pass to set up Xavier Morgan's four-yard TD run.

North answered with Tyler Jarry racing 65 yards on a pass from Tamburo. On the next play. the senior hit a wide open Raahmil Brantley for a nine-yard TD pass to put the Bulldogs ahead 36-14.

Mason needed just four plays before he hooked up with Crowder again for a 40-yard touchdown pass before the end of the third quarter to cut the lead to 36-21.

Mason was 22 of 37 for 253 yards, completing passes to eight different receivers.

Philip Lutzenkirchen was the Trojans' leading receiver with nine catches for 97 yards.

Tamburo connected with Uzomah one last time to start the fourth quarter, hitting him in corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown.

"C.J. was just making crazy plays all night," Tamburo said. "I knew he had the ability."

With 8:18 left in the game, Lassiter (9-3) mounted one last scoring attempt. The Trojans ate up must of the clock before the North defense stopped them on fourth-and-goal to secure the win.

"Our defense played so good," Tamburo said. "They have a good offense and are going to put up some points."

North Gwinnett sacked Mason six times, including two sacks Don Moon.

Tamburo was 16 of 21 passing for 289 yards. The Boise State commitment connected with six different receivers. Jarry led the way with three catches for 122 yards. Jarry also had 50 yards rushing.

"Mikey put the ball in position to make plays and the receivers made plays," Uzomah said.

North Gwinnett scored nine points in a 13-second span in the second quarter. A high snap by Lassiter on a punt went through the back of the end zone to make it 2-0.

On the kickoff, Robert Nelson went 73 yards for the touchdown to make it 9-0. It was the senior's third kickoff return for a touchdown this season.

Lassiter's Lutzenkirchen scored on 15-yard pass from Mason.

The senior, who recently decommitted from Auburn, hurdled a North defender to make it 9-7.

North Gwinnett got in scoring position on its next three possessions. Jeff Hatley connected on two of three field goals, both from 32 yard yards to make it 15-7 at halftime.

"Special were teams good and bad," Sphire said. "We set the table with special teams. It was a whole lot more good than bad. That's always the key to winning a state championship is good special teams plays."