Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. North Gwinnett quarterback C.J. Uzomah (10) gets taken down by Camden's Derrick Saulsberry (90) during Friday's quarterfinal game.
SUWANEE -- Seasons of Friday nights passed without North Gwinnett going through this.
Not since Dec. 1, 2006 had the Bulldogs been shut out and not since head coach Bob Sphire's arrival at the Suwanee school have they lost as badly.
But the 35-0 Class AAAAA quarterfinal playoff loss to defending state champion Camden County can only briefly eclipse the accomplishment of North's season.
The Bulldogs' loss was their first in a season that saw the school win its first region football title.
"I am really proud. There are only two things in competition, there is winning and there is misery and right now it's miserable," Sphire said. "But at the same time these seniors have gone through so much, they are 46-8 in their four years. They have had a great run and they have accomplished things this community probably didn't think they could accomplish."
They just couldn't get past Camden County.
The Wildcats used their speed to rattle North's offense and their offense took advantage of three Bulldog turnovers in the first half to score twice in the second quarter, both on runs by Ean Days who plowed in from three yards out and then ripped off a 58-yard score.
"I thought they won the ball game in the first half," Sphire said. "They took advantage of our mistakes. We had three turnovers in the first half, which were killers."
Neither score came off turnovers, but Camden's run-only offense wore down the North defense. The Wildcats' first scoring drive went 73 yards in 14 plays and took 6:12 off the clock. Following a North three-and-out, Camden needed just two plays to score again.
"We gave their offense too many opportunities with the turnovers in the first half," Spire said. "That is unfair to our defense, our defense was playing their hearts out and we just kept putting them back out there in bad situations.
"That is like playing Russian roulette, that bullet is going to go off sooner or later."
The first bullet was Days, who ended the game with 135 yards on 15 carries and three touchdowns.
The second bullet came in the third quarter.
North took the second-half kickoff and picked up 30 yards before punting. Eighty-three yards later, Camden led 21-0 when Steven Murphy shot straight up the middle of the field, returning the punt for a touchdown.
North kept fighting, but three of its final drives ended in failed fourth-down conversions as the Wildcat defense made starting quarterback C.J. Uzomah look uncomfortable and forced the junior into bad throws and decisions. He ended the game just 11 of 29 passing for 92 yards and two interceptions. The running game didn't help with Uzomah, the only threat. leading the team with 70 yards.
"They are so good at being able to drop seven or eight and being able to play the run with three or four because they are so stout up front it makes it very, very difficult," Sphire said. "We never felt we could ever break any long runs to keep them off balance."
And North looked off balance on offense and defense. A rarity for a team that often dictates the pace of a game.
"You have to really be on and we didn't have it quite dialed in tonight as we need to have it," Sphire said.
The loss ends the season, but it is just one loss. One game in a season full of important wins and great plays.
"I am really proud of the seniors of the way they led this team and this team played as a group," Sphire said. "I am disappointed that we weren't more successful tonight, but you get to this point and you have to play your A game and Camden did. We make no excuses."