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North dominates Lassiter in Corky Kell debut

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

ATLANTA -- Talk about making an entrance.

North Gwinnett made its Corky Kell debut in grand fashion Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

The Bulldogs spotted Lassiter seven points and then reeled off the next 34, cruising to a 34-14 victory in the 19th annual kickoff classic.

"A win would be a win, but I thought we physically pounded them in that second half," North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire said. "I was really proud of our physicality in the second half."

Saturday's game was a rematch of the 2008 second round playoff game that North won in a shootout 43-21. That was the day C.J. Uzomah emerged as a star, catching three touchdown passes at wide receiver.

Now the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs, Uzomah put up his typical strong numbers, including some action at receiver. The Auburn commitment was 9 of 13 for 97 yards and one touchdown. He also had three catches for 33 yards.

But it was first-year starters Ethan Kilgore and Donnie Miles who emerged as the new stars. The running backs scored four touchdowns and combined 243 yards of total offense.

"We call them thunder and lightning," Uzomah said. "Ethan is thunder and Donnie is lightning. It was fun for me to just watch them honestly."

Kilgore caught a 26-yard pass from Uzomah for a touchdown and had a two-yard TD run. The junior finished with 61 yards on 10 carries and five catches for 51 yards.

"I'm still kind of shocked about it," Kilgore said.

Miles, who transferred from South Florida, was the game's leading rusher with 106 yards on 13 carries. He had four caches for 25 yards and scored on TD runs of three yards and one yard.

"Those two guys were really feeding off each other, I think," Sphire said. "Once they got in rhythm we started feeding that monster. I thought our offensive line just got better and better as the game went on."

Lassiter began the game with an 81-yard touchdown pass from Eddie Printz to Charlie Hegedus on third-and-long. The Trojans never threatened to score again until the end of the game.

"Coach got a little mad at us," linebacker Brandon McGowan said. "We had to compose ourselves and just bow our neck."

The Bulldogs certainly did that. Lassiter finished with 154 yards of total offense. McGowan led the attack with seven tackles and two sacks. Justin Alabi added six tackles and two sacks, Dayton Overstreet had six tackles and Tim Hill and Malcom Jackson had interceptions.

"They really created a lot of havoc up the middle. They gave that center a ton of fits," Sphire said.

North Gwinnett countered with a 26-yard pass from Uzomah to Kilgore to tie the game.

Uzomah fumbled the Bulldogs' next possession at the 21, but North's defense got the ball right back. After Alabi's sack on third down, Overstreet blocked Lassiter's punt and Jackson returned it to the five.

Kilgore scored his second touchdown of the game on a three-yard run to put North ahead 13-7 in the second quarter after Jeff Hatley's PAT was blocked.

Backup quarterback Scott Hosch (9 of 13, 75 yards) guided the Bulldogs' next scoring drive. The junior completed a 10-yard pass to Tyler Nemec and then Miles scored on a three-yard run to put North up 20-7.

The Bulldogs had a chance to add a field goal before the half, but Hatley's 26-yard field goal was blocked.

Miles scored his second TD last in the third quarter on a one-yard run. Freshman Dante Sawyer put the game away with a three-yard scoring run. The Bulldogs had eight players carry the ball as they rushed for 267 yards.

"Having that kind of depth at that position is really, really nice, too," Sphire said.

Printz and Hegedus hooked up again in the final minutes on an 18-yard TD pass.

North Gwinnett was called for 13 penalties for 163 yards in the game, including seven personal fouls in the second half.

"We're going to play all the way through the whistle -- that's all I'm gonna say," Sphire said.