SUWANEE - From the comments of the two head coaches involved, it sometimes wasn't easy to tell the winner from the loser in Friday night's Region 7-AAAAA game between North Gwinnett and Chattahoochee.
The scoreboard gave the decision to the host and No. 8 state-ranked Bulldogs 28-13, but coach Bob Sphire knows he's seen better from his team.
"I'm happy with the score, but I'm not real pleased with the execution and the effort," Sphire said. "It's not about demeaning Chattahoochee's effort, but it's about focusing on what we do if we truly want to be a championship program."
The Bulldogs (5-1, 4-0 7-AAAAA) didn't waste any opportunities in the first quarter, driving 57 yards in 11 plays on their first possession to score on Tyler Jarry's 1-yard run and take a 7-0 lead with 4:53 left in the opening frame.
Then after fumbling the ball away on its next possession at its own 42-yard line, North got the turnover back - and then some.
Robert Nelson stepped in front of a Brendan Cross pass on his own 21 and sprinted down the sidelines for a 79-yard score, stretching the Bulldogs' lead to 14-0 with 1:51 left in the quarter.
But from that point North went into cruise control, while Chattahoochee kept battling.
The Cougars (1-5, 1-3 region) twice drove deep into North territory to come away with field goals by Connor Coons - the first from 39 yards out and the other from 32, which pulled Chattahoochee to within 14-6 with 3:07 left in the first half.
"I hope we learned some hard lessons (Friday) night," Sphire said. "We came out and jumped on them 14-0, and then, we didn't play championship football in any way, shape or form. I'm really disappointed in our lack of maturity in our effort and focus, but that falls on me."
Still, North did plenty of positives on the night.
The Bulldogs' offense did show polished execution when it wanted or needed it, like the way it responded after Chattahoochee's second field goal.
While Friday wasn't one of Mikey Tamburo's best nights - 13 of 27 passing with an interception for 136 yards and a touchdown - he did lead an impressive drive at the end of the first half.
The senior quarterback completed two passes for 29 yards and ran for 17 more on one carry to help Jarry finish off the nine-play, 80-yard drive with another 1-yard run with 41.9 second left, pushing North's lead to 21-6 at the break.
Tamburo then hit Kenny Barnes with a 7-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter before Chattahoochee scored a late touchdown to close the gap.
Jarry finished the night with 105 yards of total offense, while North sacked Cross four times - two each by Don Moon and David Park.
North Gwinnett 28, Chattahoochee 13
North: Tyler Jarry 1 run (Jeff Hatley kick) 4:53
North: Robert Nelson 79 INT return (Hatley kick) 1:32
Chattahoochee: Connor Coons 39 FG, 7:26
Chattahoochee: Coons 32 FG, 3:07
North: T. Jarry 1 run (Hatley kick) :41
North: Kenny Barnes 7 pass from Mikey Tamburo (Hatley kick) 10:10
Chattahoochee: Timmy Byerly 13 run (Coons kick) 1:31
Rushing - Chattahoochee: Byerly 4-38, Brendan Cross 13-37, Anthony
McCall 8-32, Jonathan Ke 5-12, Team 1-(-11). North: T. Jarry 13-72,
Tamburo 7-44, Chad Jarry 6-39, Joe Jones 4-14, Raahmil Brantley 3-4,
C.C. Scott 2-1.
Passing - Chattahoochee: Cross 6-22-1, 42. North: Tamburo 13-27-1,
136; C.J. Uzomah 0-3-0, 0.
Receiving - Chattahoochee: Matt Kirstein 4-34, Christian Sutherland
2-8. North: Barnes 3-26, Connor Jenkins 2-39, T. Jarry 2-33, Cordero
Dixon 2-10, C. Jarry 2-9, Uzomah 1-12, Kitaro Lewis 1-7.