As Prattville started its first offensive series, North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphire didn't see his defense's first big blow in Saturday night's 14-11 win over the Alabama powerhouse.
But he heard it.
Even facing away from the field and working on his own offensive plan, Sphire could sense a pivotal play. The powerful hit, by North's Dylan Stoehr and David Park, sparked a reaction that reverberated around the close to 10,000 football fans at the Progressive Football Challenge.
That play, the coach felt, sent an early message.
"That was a tone-setter," Sphire said. "You heard the crowd go nuts. I didn't see it until the next day in film. But when it happened, it was one of those that set your hair on fire. You could feel it in the stadium."
The hits just kept coming from the host Bulldogs, who held Alabama's three-time defending Class AAAAAA champions to 116 total yards, including just two rushing yards.
Brandon McGowen made a team-high eight tackles, two quarterback pressures and 21/2 sacks, while Park, John Gibson-Green, Justin Thomas and Trey Sims also had sacks. Sims had six tackles and Eric Wright, Stoehr and Thomas added five stops each.
It was quite a statement showing from a North defense that had to replace six starters off last year's team.
"It was incredible, the intensity level and the swagger (the defense) played with," Sphire said. "That was great. But to win a game like this takes a great team effort. Our offense moved the ball and kept them off the field, (Prattville) only ran 16 plays in the first half. And our kicking game did well, too, to pin them deep."
Punter Brandon Sysol put two of his five kicks inside the 20-yard line, and the ball-control was efficient, if not always flashy.
Raahmil Brantley pounded out 73 yards on 19 carries, and C.J. Uzomah threw two touchdown passes to Cody Gower.
Uzomah, in his first varsity start at quarterback, was 11-for-20 passing and rushed for 64 yards.
"For a first-time starter at quarterback, C.J. managed the game well," Sphire said. "In that situation, against that type of team, in that kind of setting, to play like he did was impressive."
North hosts Brookwood this Friday, part of a grueling early-season schedule. The Bulldogs also won an intense scrimmage at Bob Jones (Ala.) the week before the Prattville game.
Davis shines with big catches
Despite losing its first two games, Norcross has found its latest go-to wide receiver - senior Geremy Davis.
Davis opened the season with a pair of amazing catches in the Georgia Dome vs. Walton, topping the 100-yard receiving mark. He did just as well this past Friday against South Gwinnett, making seven catches for 133 yards. He also had another highlight-worthy grab when he was sandwiched between two Comet defenders and jumped to make a grab.
Through two games, Davis has 13 catches for 276 yards and a TD.
South defense shines, too
South Gwinnett's offense exploded in its 49-28 win over Norcross, racking up 562 yards, 419 of them on the ground.
Lost in those staggering numbers and the misleading final score was a solid effort by the Comets' defense against a dangerous Norcross offense.
The Blue Devils scored on a kickoff return and two South miscues, returning a fumble for a TD and recovery a fumble at the Comets' 10-yard line. That accounted for 21 of the 28 points South allowed.
Chaz Jackson had two of South's four interceptions vs. Norcross, and Justin Smith had a team-high 11 tackles.
Wide left or not?
There were rumblings Friday night that Duluth kicker Daniel Starovasnik's potential game-winning field goal, which was ruled wide left, was actually good. It would have given his team a huge win over Shiloh.
Instead the game went to overtime, where Duluth lost 28-21 - its 19th loss in a row. Even if video evidence shows the kick was good, the outcome won't be changed.
However, the Wildcats have a chance to bounce back this week against Meadowcreek, which ended its own 43-game losing streak last season - by beating Duluth.