Photo by Christine Troyke
In his first varsity start at quarterback, Matt Poole saw more adversity than his coaches expected.
First, the rain came on Friday. Then the lightning, which postponed the game a day, split the game into two parts.
And though he played half a game Friday and half a game Saturday, both efforts pleased the Blue Devil coaching staff in a 21-12 win over Dacula.
"After coming off a season-ending injury his junior year, Matt did an outstanding job managing the game in his first varsity game at quarterback," Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said.
Poole completed 8 of 13 passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns (two to Bradley Coleman). It didn't hurt to have some offensive balance behind Kendrick Huitt, who rushed 12 times for 116 yards. Evan Chininis led the offensive line with an 83 percent grade and four pancake blocks.
Norcross, which gets a week off before hosting Parkview on Sept. 3, also played well defensively to stymie Dacula. Seth Hinsley (12 tackles, two for losses, one sack), John McWilliams (12 tackles, one pass breakup) and Nick Ehrhardt (10 tackles, two for losses) led the way. Punter Charlie Rhea (five punts for a 44-yard average) and kicker Chris Bingham (3-for-3 PATs, 3 of 4 kickoffs into the end zone) also were solid.
Bringing the heat
One of the key ingredients in North Gwinnett slowing down Lassiter's pass-heavy offense Saturday was the pass rush.
The Trojans struggled to find an offensive rhythm with North defenders bearing down on the quarterback constantly in the Bulldogs' 34-14 win in the Corky Kell Kickoff Classic. Justin Alabi had eight tackles and two sacks and Brandon McGowan had nine tackles (three for losses) and two sacks to lead the charge, while Dayton Overstreet had seven stops (one for a loss) and a big punt block.
One major source of the pressure was noseguard Jonathan Jones, who was more important than his two tackles indicate.
"Jonathan was pivotal in so many other players reaping the benefits of his work, enabling them to sack Lassiter's QB, because he continually created havoc up the middle from his noseguard position, flushing the QB out of the pocket numerous times, creating opportunities for sacks by players rushing from the outside," North head coach Bob Sphire said. "The constant pressure and harassment he created for their QB, and the frustrations he gave the Lassiter center, forced Lassiter to double- and triple-team him numerous times in their pass protection scheme to try to slow him down, yet he still pressured the QB up the middle all night long."
North doesn't get much time to recover. It hosts the Progressive Football Challenge on Saturday, with an 8 p.m. game against Alabama power Bob Jones. The game will be broadcast live on CSS, as will the preceding game in the showcase at North -- a 5 p.m. matchup between Grayson and Spain Park (Ala.).
Silver lining for Rams
The news wasn't all bad for Grayson, which lost for the first time at the Georgia Dome on Saturday to Kell.
The defense was outstanding, particularly against Tennessee commitment Brian Randolph. Michael Peek's 13 tackles (two for losses) led the unit, but Namdi Ofodile (six tackles, sack) and Jesse Hogan (three tackles, one for loss).
"This is what these games are for, to get better," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said.
Even the mistake-prone offense (six fumbles, three turnovers) got clicking at times, but penalties and other problems slowed the progress. Garrett Horne (three catches for 68 yards, TD) and Nick Schuessler (8 of 14 passing, 117 yards, TD) led the late comeback while the play up front was led by lineman Garrett Gorringe and tight end Wilson Hudgins, who had four pancake blocks each along with an 85 percent blocking grade.
South nearly pulls off shocking upset
South Gwinnett succeeded in putting a little scare into perennial power Lowndes on Friday's road trip, but its fourth-quarter comeback fell short in a 34-26 loss.
The Comets fell behind at halftime before settling down offensively and defensively. They posted 341 yards of offense -- lineman Joseph Hillin's 84 percent grade and two knockdown blocks were a bright spot -- and rushed for 195 in scoring the most points by a Lowndes opponent since October 2006.
South's defense also played well. Justin Smith had 13 tackles, Edward Muldrow had six tackles, two sacks and two quarterback pressures and Richard Shankle had seven tackles, one pass breakup, one QB pressure and one blocked punt.
When the football season kicks off at full strength Friday night, there won't be many Gwinnett vs. Gwinnett matchups as most teams looked outside of the county for their non-region foes.
That isn't the case with Dacula and Mill Creek, which hosts its rival on Friday. The only other county vs. county games this week are Central Gwinnett-Mountain View and Duluth-Archer. This week's slate of games also features two local teams hosting perennial state powers, with Collins Hill welcoming Roswell and Parkview hosting Stephenson.