Technique key in defensive-line philosophy

SUWANEE -- Games are won and lost in the trenches. Any coach will tell you that.

For North Gwinnett, the same held true as the defensive line found themselves in the backfield all night, helping to propel the Bulldogs to a 28-0 win over Peachtree Ridge for the Region 7-AAAAA championship.

"It's all about speed and technique," said Justin Alabi, who is considering schools like Appalachian State and Air Force. "We have a lot of guys that can play, so we rotate new guys in and stay fresh."

The Bulldogs held the Lions to 47 total yards in each half, limiting the big-play opportunities the Lions had become accustomed to throughout the season. They also held the Lions to eight total first downs, seven of which were in the second half.

North Gwinnett defensive line coach Byron Shells said the key is the work done during the week at practice.

"We work it and give these kids repetitions," he said. "They respond to what I and the other coaches ask them to do."

Shells said the tradition of Bulldogs' defensive linemen is something that also weighs heavily on the current players' minds.

"I've been so blessed to coach so many great athletes that have gone onto the next level," Shell said. "Our guys know what the group of defensive linemen did before them and they take pride in doing as good or even better. We expect them to carry on the tradition."

Steve Buffington, a former lineman for the Bulldogs, said he comes back to the games to encourage the new crop of players and to ensure that tradition is holding up.

"Some of us come back to keep these guys accountable," he said. "The cornerstone was in 2008, and now we've won region titles for three straight years. Being back here reminds me of everything we were taught (as players) and how it pays off."

"We strive to be the best defensive line ever at North Gwinnett," Alabi said. "Plus, we have the best defensive line coach in the nation, so as long as we're doing what is asked of us, we'll be successful."

With Archer next on the docket for the Bulldogs in the first round of the state playoffs, the defensive line knows they're going to have to get ready for a dose of heavy running come Monday.

"We'll enjoy this and get to work on Monday," said Joseph Dillard. "We win the game with our work Monday through Thursday."