SUWANEE - Many events over the past five high school football seasons have helped set the stage for what has turned into a Golden Age in the long history of North Gwinnett program.
From the spread offense being introduced by the late Dennis Roland in his only season as head coach to the arrival of Bob Sphire as coach two years later to the dozens of players who have come through the system, many factors have turned the Bulldogs into one of Georgia's top Class AAAAA teams.
But perhaps one of the biggest factors was a decision made by Sphire during his first summer as coach three years ago.
With three quality candidates locked in a battle to succeed recently graduated starting quarterback Brad Schlosser and run the Bulldogs' spread set, Sphire came to the conclusion following a summer 7-on-7 camp that Mikey Tamburo was his man.
"To be honest, when I got here, (finding a new starting quarterback) was a process," Sphire recalled. "Patrick Thompson was ahead of him coming out of spring, and he was a pretty good quarterback. Mikey split reps with Will Huff. When one of those guys weren't playing quarterback, they were at running back.
"All three of them went neck-and-neck through the majority of the summer. It was an intangible feel for the playmaking ability Mikey had."
The numbers demonstrate Sphire's decision turned out to be a wise one.
Tamburo has proved to be an offensive weapon with his arm and his legs. He's thrown for 6,424 yards and 57 touchdowns in his career heading into North's Class AAAAA state quarterfinal game Friday at Newnan, which has already broken Schlosser's school record and left him less than 700 yards short of the county mark set by Dacula's Terry Harvey.
He's also accounted for 1,621 yards on the ground, giving him a career total of 8,045 yards of total offense.
More importantly, the Bulldogs (10-2) have won 33 - minus one he sat out due to an injury last year - of the 39 games the 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior has been under center, including finishing as state runners-up a year ago.
"Patrick Thompson would have been a terrific quarterback in this system," Sphire said. "Will Huff could've been a good quarterback. But the proof is in the pudding as far as the decision is concerned. He's been a catalyst towards taking the program to new heights."
If the No. 10 state-ranked Bulldogs are to reach even further heights, they'll need a win Friday night at third-ranked Newnan (12-0), and Tamburo will likely have to play a big role.
That is not a surprise to those who have had to coach against him the past three seasons, including Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis.
"He's the best high school quarterback I've ever had to coach against," Jarvis said. "He's probably the best high school quarterback I've ever seen."
That's pretty heady praise given the fact Jarvis worked with future Georgia All-American David Greene while serving as quarterbacks coach at South Gwinnett.
Jarvis quickly qualified that comparison by noting the fact both Tamburo and Greene are left-handed is about the only physical trait they have in common, and that his closeness of working with Greene made it a difficult to accurately compare the two.
However, Jarvis did say Tamburo shares at least one very important quality with Greene.
"He makes plays with the players he's got around him," Jarvis said. "He makes them better. That's the measure of a great quarterback."
Indeed, Tamburo credits North coaches, other Bulldog catalysts like Tyler Jarry, Cordero Dixon, Kenny Barnes and Jaison Yoshimura, plus a strong offensive line, over his career to help him make things happen.
It's also helped that he got a chance to watch an impressive list of quarterbacks - including Greene - work at Competitive Edge Sports, a Gwinnett-based sports training program co-owned by his father John, close up, which gave him ideas on how to develop his skills.
"(Former Oklahoma quarterback) Jason White and David Greene and Jim Sorgi, Payton Manning's backup (with the Indianapolis Colts) were all in there," Tamburo recalled. "They'd come out here when I was in eighth grade and me and Tyler Jarry would watch them throw around. It just put in my head that I really wanted to work as hard as I can to get to the next level."
Tamburo will reach the next level individually as he has already given a verbal commitment to attend Boise State in an offensive system that seems to be as tailor-made for his skills as North's.
However, he is more interested in leading the Bulldogs to the next level, and hoping he and his teammates still have more to do to shape how they'll be remembered.
"I see this team, and I look at some of the freshmen and I see state championships down the road," Tamburo said.
"I hope we can be the first. But I can definitely see us being the building blocks and helping put North Gwinnett on the map statewide and even a little bit in the Southeast. Hopefully, it doesn't end Friday night."
SideBar: The Tamburo File
· Who: Michael Tamburo
· Sport: Football
· School: North Gwinnett
· Class: Senior
· Favorite TV show: "The Office"
· Favorite sports team: Atlanta Falcons
· Dream job: Own my own sports management business
· Quarterback you most tailor your game after: Steve Young
· Has thrown for 6,424 yards in his career at North, breaking Brad Schlosser's school record and passing him for second place on Gwinnett County's all-time passing list
· Needs 676 yards to catch county career record holder Terry Harvey, who threw for 7,100 yards in his career at Dacula
· Has thrown 57 touchdown passes and accounted for 8,045 yards of total offense in his career
· Has given a verbal commitment to attend Boise State