THE BLITZ: North's defense is better than imagined

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Editor’s Note: Brandon Brigman, a sports writer for the Daily Post, writes a blog every Monday called “The Blitz.” It is available online at www.gwinnettdailypost.com.

I've been telling people all year that Norcross has a pretty good team and a shot for a deep playoff run.

Maybe it was the fact that I saw the Blue Devils play twice this year that I was in love with their explosive offense.

North Gwinnett reminded me, during and after the game, that you still need a great defense to be successful in Class AAAAA football.

The Bulldogs' defense held Norcross to just one offensive touchdown (the other two came on special teams and defense) in Friday's 29-22 win.

I knew North had a good defense, but they might be better than I imagined. Even more impressive than holding Norcross to one offensive touchdown is the fact that they held Alvin Kamara, the county's No. 2 rushing leader, to just 55 yards.

The Bulldogs don't have a defense loaded with Division I players like some great defenses I've seen in Gwinnett in the past. Defensive lineman Jordan Washington is their biggest prospect. The rest of the group -- guys like Joe Dillard, Justin Alabi, Carl Rider and Justin Thomas -- make the defense a contender for not only another region title, but a very deep playoff run.

I may not have picked North to win last week, which the North faithful reminded me several times after Friday's game, but I'm sticking with the Bulldogs in the pick 'em the rest of the year.

That defense is just too good to pick against.

Norcross has the talent, but is still missing something

If you were to draft a fantasy high school football team, you'd probably take a Norcross player in the first round.

They have athletes all over the field year-in and year-out.

I think they have the most explosive offense. The only problem is you only see that offense in the first half. Norcross has developed a knack for big first-half leads only to see them slip away. They've been able to hold on for wins in the first five games. That wasn't the case against North.

If Norcross can find a way to play a complete game and not let off the gas, I think we can see them make a deep playoff run.

Region 8 starting shape up

We know Grayson is a lock for the playoffs. It's those last three spots that are still up for grabs.

I thought Dacula was a realistic No. 2 spot, but I'm not so sure after their loss to Grayson. They didn't hang with the Rams like I thought they could and the injury to one of their best players in Marcus Cox doesn't help.

Brookwood is Brookwood and they'll be in the playoffs, I'm just not sure where. I still think Parkview underrated, but that might be because they haven't reached the meat of their schedule. That will change this week. The last team for a shot to get in is Archer, but the Tigers need to pull an upset to have a shot. I think the rest of the region participants have too many problems to get in the playoffs this year.

Duluth gets much needed win

I thought Duluth was done when it lost to Collins Hill two weeks ago. It didn't help that their quarterback and best player Anfernee Stewart is out indefinitely.

The Wildcats had a lot of high expectations for this season and their win against Mountain View showed they are not out. Yes, the win was over a third-year program. But lets face it, Duluth needed the win to keep its morale.

Parkview will go as far as Carson will take them

Parkview running back Chris Carson might be the best back in the county this year.

The junior turned in another impressive game on Friday against Central, rushing for 184 yards and three touchdowns.

Parkview trailed in the first half against Central and Carson had 136 of his yards in the second half to lead the Panthers to their fourth straight win.

Carson has emerged as the offensive spark for Parkview and the Panthers need him to continue his success if they are going to reach the playoffs.

We will find out how good of a team Parkview has this week. The Panthers host No. 3 ranked Grayson. The Rams have one of the best defenses in the county year-in and year-out. If Carson can put another 100-plus yard rushing performance, I'll be ready to call him the best back in the county this year.

Did Central find a defense?

Central Gwinnett finally kept a team under 49 points. The Black Knights surrendered 168 points the last three games.

They kept Parkview to just 22 last Friday, but still lost their fourth game in a row.

It might be too late, but it could be a sign of better things to come for the Black Knights.

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NGHS09 3 years, 12 months ago

Finally you see the light! lol...This defense is ruthless and ferocious. They held Croom to under 100 yds receiving as well. NO ONE has rushed for over 100 yds on NG's defense this year. Did anyone else notice how much more physical NG's defense was than Norcross's offense? No one in the county plays more physical on defense.The Bears better prepare for impact, especially stepping into NG's back yard this Friday.


ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 12 months ago

"Norcross has the talent, but is still missing something"

What's missing for the Blue Devils is more steady play and varsity experience at the Quarterback position as second-half turnovers helped the Devils give the game away. .

Missing Tanner Maloof at the Fullback position and, ESPECIALLY, at Linebacker really hurt the Blue Devils on defense in last Friday's game as there are some spots on the defense that are more inexperienced in varsity play than others as was the case against NG.

Special teams miscues (blocked extra points, missed field goals. big second-half returns allowed by NG and the Kamara fumble) also did great harm to the Devils' chances and ultimately did them in.


ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 12 months ago

In addition to the turnovers on offense, the missed tackles on defense and the special teams miscues throughout the game and especially in the second half, it appears that the Devils may have gotten away from the run game in the second half that had helped the Devils to a 5-0 start in the first half of the season and a 22-0 lead against NG.

Norcross is still a supremely talented squad with a roster loaded with great individual talent at many positions, but there are very disturbing issues as far as taking care of the ball on offense as the teams has had way too many fumbles and interceptions this season.

There has also been very poor special teams play in the kicking, blocking and coverage games.

The defense is also a major concern without the presence of team captain Tanner Maloof who is injured and the missed tackles that often seem to rear their ugly head in the second half this season.

The missed tackles on defense especially seemed to rear their ugly head in the second half of the big games against supremely talented opponents at Mill Creek and vs North Gwinnett.

The deficiencies on special teams, on defense and with giveaways on offense can be covered up with the smoke-and-mirrors of an explosive big-play offense against weaker opponents, but against the meat of the 7-AAAAA schedule in games against supreme talent on teams like Mill Creek, North Gwinnett, Peachtree Ridge and Collins Hill, those defiencies will be exposed and magnified, especially in the heat of monster late-season games with postseason implications and playoff hopes on the line.

If the very disturbing issues with giveaways (fumbles and interceptions on offense), poor and missed tackling on defense and special teams miscues don't improve soon, then the Devils' are going to have very big problems in remaining games against Peachtree Ridge this coming Friday and against Collins Hill next Friday.

If those areas of weakness that were exposed against North are not shored up, the Devils' run the increasingly likely risk of making a quick first-round exit and may even run the remote risk of playing themselves out of the playoffs.

Though at this point it looks like the Devils need only to win two of their last four remaining games to qualify for the playoffs.

It also looks like the Devils need to win each of their last four remaining games to be assured a of home playoff game at this point.


NGHS09 3 years, 11 months ago

Ok I just lost all respect for your post lol....You must be a Norcross fan considering you are making it sound like NG had no chance and no business of winning the game. BTW TANNER MALOOF played the whole game. NG had just as many turnovers and miscues....NG's defense is just BETTER and let Norcross know they do NOT bow down to ANYONE. NG is just simply BETTER. One TD on offense? What a joke. Get over it!


NGHS09 3 years, 11 months ago

Norcross was not better than NG on either side of the ball. NG just didn't wake up on offense until the second half. You can bend the facts anyway you want, but NG was just better and is better.


ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 11 months ago

"BTW TANNER MALOOF played the whole game."

Are you sure? Because by the looks of it, he only played the first half at best.

"You must be a Norcross fan considering you are making it sound like NG had no chance and no business of winning the game."

Dude, what are you talking about? It was freaking North Gwinnett, even when they were down 22-0 everybody watching the game or who has any knowledge of Gwinnett County football who knows what they have accomplished knew that they weren't out of it.

Three years ago, Norcross had a 19-0 lead at halftime and North came back and scored 32 unanswered points to win going away 32-19.

I can appreciate your "us-against-the-world" mentality in defense of your team, but by no means is your team underrated or overlooked like you seem to think as the game against Norcross again proved that no lead is safe against a North program that has won 10 or more games in each of the last five seasons and is the defending back-to-back Region 7-AAAAA Champions and was ranked #1 in the state throughout much of last season before being upset at home in the playoffs by Grayson.

Nobody ever said or even implied that North had no business winning a region showdown game that they had won the last three years in a row going into last week's game and if you saw my post before the game you would have saw where I gave my own analysis of the upcoming game and gave North the slight overall advantage going into the matchup. I didn't make an outright prediction that North would win but I thought that they had the advantage because they had more overall experience, took better care of the ball and had more consistent play on both defense and special teams.


ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 11 months ago

"Norcross was not better than NG on either side of the ball. NG just didn't wake up on offense until the second half. You can bend the facts anyway you want, but NG was just better and is better."

Frankly I don't see what your beef is as your team proved that it was the better team on the field and the scoreboard last week and put itself in position to win the region outright by following up the big win over Norcross with a win last night over a tough up-and-coming Mountain View program.

If it makes you feel better than go ahead and poke your chest out and shout to the world that your team is the best or whatever, but if you think that your team lacks respect in county or even state or national circles then you are terribly mistaken as its no secret that NG has a very, very good team that is regarded as a state title contender.

But at the same time you could show a little better sportsmanship and acknowledge that they are many other very, very good and very, very talented teams in the county as well including every other team in 7-AAAAA, even winless Meadowcreek.

There's no issue with your team and the conversation is NOT about your team, but is rather about Norcross' puzzling deficiencies.

Your team is set in region play right now as North controls its own destiny both playoff and region title-wise and is still undefeated in region play.

Now I don't know why you would like to switch places with Norcross and have North be the team that is being dissected and questioned having back-to-back losses after a hot start.

Brigman's post actually gave North recognition for being a very good defense with a very good chance at winning the region and in the playoffs.

Your team won on the field and the scoreboard and it goes pretty much without saying as everybody knows it. You don't have to go overboard in bragging about it and rubbing it in the faces of the other teams in Region 7-AAAAA, which are also very talented and play the same game that North plays because they love playing it, win or lose.


NGHS09 3 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for the history lesson, I played in that game BTW and I defend NG because nobody really repects them. Sure grown ups do, but high school football players don't; especially even after they graduate. NG wins because the coaching is better and the boys play with their hearts on their sleeves. This year NG doesn't need the media attention or the local spot light. They have everything they need within. One heart, one soul, one mission.


ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 11 months ago

"Thanks for the history lesson, I played in that game BTW and I defend NG because nobody really repects them. Sure grown ups do, but high school football players don't; especially even after they graduate."

Who are these high school football players that don't really respect NG that you keep talking about? Because I'll tell you, they sure as hell aren't any players from Peachtree Ridge, Mill Creek, Mountain View, Collins Hill, Duluth, Grayson or ESPECIALLY Norcross, Meadowcreek or Brookwood (The Broncos have never beaten North since Sphire has been there and have had even lost like six-straight games to NG, including being eliminated from the playoffs in back-to-back postseasons by NG, before taking them off of the schedule and opening up their offense).

There's no program in this county that looks at the calendar before the season and marks North down as an easy win, NOBODY in the county, region or state marks North down as an easy win, just like North doesn't overlook any of the aforemention programs in the county as Coach Sphire would never allow that kind of destructive thinking from any one of his players or staff in his program.

I can say with certainty that your paranoia about your team not being respected is pretty much unwarranted.

The reason why a team like Norcross has been under the microscope is because they have a lot of great individual talent at the receiver and running back positions on offense but still had some puzzling underlying issues with giveaways (fumbles and interceptions), special teams and defense that grew to be more and more disturbing during the course of their 5-0 start.

Frankly, its teams like Norcross that are loaded with great individual talent at multiple positions that get off to hot starts, seem to have lots of great potential and experience stunning collapses that the media and the public love to dissect and examine under a microscope at all levels of sports from preps to pros (it's a position that you do NOT want your team to be in if you are winning, just see this year's Braves and Red Sox in Major League Baseball as examples of supremely talented teams who's stunning collapses called for endless postmortem examinations and anaysis).

"NG wins because the coaching is better and the boys play with their hearts on their sleeves. This year NG doesn't need the media attention or the local spot light. They have everything they need within. One heart, one soul, one mission."

Though I wouldn't exactly refer to being on primetime TV four times this year as a lack of media attention or local spotlight, until somebody beats NG in region play, who can disagree?

And it is absolutely not a bad thing to openly profess your love and support for your favorite team, just be careful not to go too far with it and become so obnoxiously in-your-face about it that you make everyone else in the county start cheering for your team to lose just to spite you and make you quiet down.


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