SUWANEE - Bob Sphire called it a working halftime.
North Gwinnett spent its half discussing adjustments instead of shouting. They shared information instead of sitting through motivational speeches.
They didn't need more motivation. They needed to change the direction of the game.
The Bulldogs were already 10 points into their 33 unanswered of a 33-19 comeback win over Norcross, but the troubles remained.
The big play and point compiling offense had just 69 yards of offense with 90 through the air. They had rushed for minus-21 yards. Norcross had 180 total offense, including 131 and two touchdowns from running back D.J. Adams who ended the game with 193 yards. North had just five first downs.
"Talk about getting up off the mat, there probably wasn't anybody that thought we weren't knocked out except for our kids," said North Gwinnett head coach Sphire. "Wow."
The exclamatory fits. It was North's first win over Norcross in the Sphire era, with the last two deciding the Region 7-AAAAA champion. This one puts the Bulldogs (3-1, 1-0 region) in control of that race.
"We are going to try to keep the momentum going and keep it strong the rest of the season," said Chandler Cross, who forced a fumble and intercepted a pass in the second half for the Bulldogs. For the game, he also had 12 tackles and two sacks.
Most of that came in the second half. The Blue Devils (2-2, 0-1) started the game with dominance.
Norcross took the opening kickoff and made 68 yards look easy. Only one positive offensive play went for less than five yards. Adams carried the ball six times on the possession alone, ending it with a 19 yards run where he spun out of a tackle by North's James Kearney, who a few plays earlier had laid Adams out on a seven-yard gain.
After the touchdown drive the defense got to start its show.
It started with a no gain carry by Raahmil Brantley and things just got worse for North. Quarterback Michael Tamburo was sacked on second down for a seven-yard loss and Brantley got three back before the punt.
On its second possession, Norcross managed only a Conner Hawk field goal, but the defense kept up its domination, forcing another three-and-out and negative 5 yards of offense.
Norcross added another field goal and its second touchdown before North got its first first down with 6:10 remaining in the second quarter.
"I thought our kids came out ready to play," said Norcross head coach Keith Maloof. "We lost a little momentum in the second quarter and never got it back. But our kids never quit."
The momentum shift started with North's first down. The next play Tamburo hit Kenny Barnes on a 40-yard pass for another first down. The drive would stall, but North's Jeff Hatley connected from 47 yards out to put the Bulldogs on the board.
That got the ball rolling.
With 2:14 left in the half, the Bulldogs drove 49 yards in eight plays, scoring on a pass from Tamburo to Tyler Jarry.
"That got us off the schnide," Sphire said. "That was textbook. I was really proud of our guys in that two-minute drive of how they executed. They valued every second and they never panicked. That was the crescendo moment for our kids. They were thinking different when they went into halftime after that drive."
What they were thinking was to run straight at Norcross.
Tamburo attempted just three passes in the second half while Tyler Jarry carried the ball 13 times, instead of his two first-half attempts. He ended the game with 110 yards rushing, 77 yards receiving and two touchdowns. North carried the ball 22 times in the second half compared with just 12 in the first.
"That was one of the biggest things that the basically begged me at halftime," Sphire said. "Run downhill at them. Run downhill at them. Run downhill at them."
And Norcross just kept going downhill, racking up 85 yards in penalties and turning the ball over twice.
"We came out ready to play (in the second half)," the senior Cross said. "We had to turn up our intensity and show that we deserved to win this football game."
For most of the team it was the first time. And the perfect time.
"That is really going to boost our team morale," said Jarry, who had never beaten a Norcross varsity team. "They were the team to beat. Definitely beating them is huge for us. It's an awesome feeling to be them."
North Gwinnett 33, Norcross 19
Norcross: D.J. Adams 19 run (kick failed) 7:03
Norcross: Connor Hawk 35 FG, 2:25
Norcross: Hawk 47 FG, 10:37
Norcross: Adams 18 run (Hawk kick) 7:41
North Gwinnett: Jeff Hatley 30 field goal 4:54
North Gwinnett: Tyler Jarry 3 pass from Michael Tamburo (Hatley kick) :05
North Gwinnett: Chad Jarry 9 run (Hatley kick) 8:55
North Gwinnett: Safety, snap out of end zone, 1:53
North Gwinnett: Tamburo 1 run (Hatley kick) :00
North Gwinnett: Tyler Jarry 3 run (Hatley kick) 3:12
Rushing - North Gwinnett: Raahmil Brantley 4-13, Tamburo 10-(-31), Tyler Jarry 15-110, Chad Jarry 5-25; Norcross: Adams 28-193, Peter Poole 7-46, Kendrix Huitt 1-5, Arius Wright 1-1, Charles King 3-(-16).
Passing - North Gwinnett: Tamburo 10-14-137; Norcross: Charles King 8-15-78.
Receiving - North Gwinnett: Chad Jarry 1-5, Tyler Jarry 5-77, Kenny Barnes 1-40, Kitaro Lewis 1-2, Brantley 1-8, Cordero Dixon 1-5; Norcross: Prince Kent 4-32, Geremy Davis 3-34, Wright 1-12.