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North looks to keep momentum rolling from big win

Bob Sphire didn't have much time to enjoy his team's win over nationally ranked Prattville (Ala.) last Saturday.

The next morning, the North Gwinnett head football coach was game-planning for tonight's matchup against Brookwood.

"That game is over," Sphire said. "Brookwood is next and they have a very good team."

The Bulldogs defeated Prattville (Ala.), which is ranked No. 21 by USA Today, Saturday night in the National Football Challenge. North held the three-time defending Alabama state champions to 116 total yards.

"Obviously, they beat a good football team," Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. "They played exceptional on defense. Anytime you do that you can win."

Now the No. 5 state-ranked Bulldogs will face a Brookwood program they have beaten five straight times. Parkview (1999-2002) and Clarke Central (1989-92) are the only other teams to beat the Broncos five straight times. No team has ever beaten Brookwood six games in a row.

"Other than the last game, which kind of got out of hand, all of these games have been barn burners where the game was hanging in the balance," Sphire said. "A couple of mistakes and it could have gone the other way."

North beat Brookwood 17-3 last year in the regular season and 34-10 in the first round of the playoffs as it reached the quarterfinals for the third straight season.

"They've all been really well-played games," Crews said. "Most of the games it's been three or four plays that swung the game. They've swung in their direction, maybe we can catch a break."

Sphire is expecting a different type of Brookwood team tonight than the ones North has faced five times over the last three years.

"They are more explosive than they were last year. They've got some speed," Sphire said.

Brookwood lost its season opener in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome 42-32 two weeks ago. The game was not as close as the score. Brookwood was down 26-6 at halftime and trailed 33-6 early in the third quarter. The Broncos scored two TDs in the final minute to make the score look respectable.

"We can't survive if we give up the kind of rushing yards we did," Crews said. "As poorly as we played at times, we gave up three deep balls for scores."

Brookwood running back Julian Suber was the bright spot on offense as the senior rushed for 117 yards and had three TDs.

"The Suber kid has sweet feet," Sphire said. "They seem to be more effective on offense. I think they have more breakaway players than recently."

Sphire was pleased with the way his team played against Prattville, but would have liked more big plays from his offense. A staple of North's spread attack the last few years, the Bulldogs' biggest play was a 20-yard touchdown pass.

Junior C.J. Uzomah made his first start at quarterback, replacing three-year starter Mikey Tamburo, who is now at Boise State.

"For a first-time starter, I thought C.J did a yeoman's job keeping us in manageable down and distance and never really made any significant mistakes," Sphire said. "I think our offensive line got better and better as the game went on. That's nice to have as a play caller."

SideBar: BROOKWOOD AT NORTH GWINNETT

Brookwood Broncos (8-AAAAA)

Coach: Mark Crews

Record: 0-1

Last week: Had a bye

North Bulldogs (7-AAAAA)

Coach: Bob Sphire

Record: 1-0

Last week: Beat Prattville (Ala.) 14-11

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: North Gwinnett won 17-3 last year

Directions to North Gwinnett: From I-85, go west on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road until it becomes Suwanee Dam Road. School is on the right.

Series history:

2008: North Gwinnett 34, Brookwood 10*

2008: North Gwinnett 17, Brookwood 3

2007: North Gwinnett 17, Brookwood 3*

2007: North Gwinnett 22, Brookwood 21

2006: North Gwinnett 10, Brookwood 3

2003: Brookwood 42, North Gwinnett 14

2002: Brookwood 14, North Gwinnett 6

2001: North Gwinnett 14, Brookwood 10

2000: Brookwood 34, North Gwinnett 8

*Indicates playoff game