Photo: Kevin Hinton. Norcross' Arius Wright (3) runs through the Peachtree Ridge defense during their game last week.
Disappointment hung over the post-game Norcross huddle after last week's loss to Peachtree Ridge, but Keith Maloof knew there was still reason to fight.
The reason is tonight.
The Blue Devils end their regular season hosting playoff-bound Collins Hill in a game that could keep their season going. Norcross is tied with North Forysth for the fourth playoff spot in Region 7-AAAAA but the Raiders hold the tie-breaker, meaning Norcross must win and North Forsyth must lose.
"No doubt (this is big)," said Norcross head coach Maloof. "It's the 10th game of the year, we need to end up on a good note and maybe get some help from somebody else."
The Blue Devils' season is much like their 4-5 record. It's a season marred by inconsistency. In last week's loss to Peachtree Ridge there were glimpses of offensive prowess with quarterback Ronald Rose connecting four times with receiver Geremy Davis for 70 yards, 62 of which came in the second half. But the offense could only manage 56 rushing yards.
"They have adjusted to improve immensely," said Collins Hill head coach Billy Wells.
"They have a tremendous amount of talent."
But Norcross is accustomed to playing in big games to end its regular season. It hasn't lost Game 10 since 2005, twice beating North Gwinnett for the 7-AAAAA title.
"We've just got to line up and play our game of football," Maloof said, "and play four quarters against a good football team."
And Collins Hill is good.
The Eagles' only loss came to the same Lions' team in the only game Georgia Tech-bound running back Charles Perkins struggled to find room to run.
Collins Hill has already clinched a playoff spot, but a win over Norcross and a North Gwinnett loss could give the Eagles a home playoff game, depending on a tiebreaking coin flip. It's no must-win, but a home playoff game is a big incentive.
"Our kids would be excited about that," Wells said. "That is why you work so hard, to make these games important."
It may be more important for Norcross, but this also is a game no current Collins Hill player has ever won. The Blue Devils have won the last three in the series.
"Any time a game is important it is a positive," Wells said. "Their kids are playing their best football of the year. This is the football our kids would rather play. At that level of competition."
Just like its coach, Norcross will keep fighting. The glimmer of hope is just bright enough.
"These kids have battled. They have battled," Maloof said. "It is one of those things, you keep fighting. You fight through adversity. They are going to come out swinging. It is a good group of kids and I am proud of the way they have fought."