Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Norcross linebacker Kevin Mouhon (48) celebrates his sack of Colquitt County quarterback Cole Segraves (13) with teammate Lorenzo Carter (25) during the semifinal Class AAAAAA state playoff game in Norcross on Dec. 7. The Blue Devils will face Lovejoy during the Class AAAAAA state championship high school football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta today.
Norcross hasn't put more emphasis on one football game over the other all year.
The Blue Devils didn't do it when they opened the season against South Gwinnett, when they played defending region champion North Gwinnett or when they started the playoffs.
Norcross is taking that same mentality into today's Class AAAAAA state championship game against Lovejoy.
"We know it's the state championship, but we're going about it like any other week. The point of the football game is to win, so that's what we're going to do," Norcross running back Alvin Kamara said. "We don't get too high or too low. We just stay even and do what we do -- play hard and get the job done, that's what we've been preaching all year."
Norcross' calm approach has worked with an undefeated 14-0 record and the first state championship game appearance in school history. The Region 7-AAAAAA champion will face a Lovejoy (13-1) program that reached last year's Class AAAA title game. The Wildcats were undefeated before losing to Tucker. Lovejoy head coach Al Hughes doesn't think that championship game experience will be a factor today.
"It would against most people, but not Norcross," Hughes said. "They are a very good team, very well coached. They have D-I players at every position. We're going to have our hands full."
Don't let Hughes deceive you, Lovejoy is loaded with Division I players as well. Running back Travis Custis, a Georgia Tech commitment, has rushed for 2,058 yards and 37 touchdowns.
"We can't arm tackle. If we arm tackle, that guy will run right through us," Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. "If he gets in the secondary, it's hard to tackle him one-on-one."
A.J. Jackson, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound tight end, is an Auburn commitment and receiver Jumichael Ramos, a Georgia Tech commitment, leads the team in receptions.
The duo make a nice pair of targets for quarterback Alejandro Bennefield, who has thrown for 2,395 yards with 28 TDs and five interceptions.
"I look at them on film and they mix it up a lot like us on offense," Maloof said.
And that's just the offensive college prospects. Linebacker Zane Fields and defensive lineman Arshad Jackson also have Division I scholarship offers. Lovejoy trailed 21-7 last week to North Cobb before rallying to win 63-42. The comeback was aided by two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
"The defense is only giving up (an average of) seven or eight points a game," Maloof said.
Norcross has its share of talented players as well, even if Hughes underplays his team's talent.
"If you're comparing the Green Bay Packers to the Minnesota Golden Gophers," Hughes said. "We look a lot like the Golden Gophers and they look like Green Bay. They are a world-class program."
Norcross' defense put constant pressure on Colquitt County in last week's 41-27 victory. The Blue Devils sacked QB Cole Seagraves three times even without defensive lineman Jahmal Jones. The senior was injured against Camden County in the quarterfinals and is expected to play today.
Hughes couldn't give enough adjectives to describe the Blue Devils' defense.
"Fast, speed, big, tough," Hughes said. "They have good-looking linebackers and ends. Their defensive backs cover you like a blanket. They have all the talent."
Defensive end Lorenzo Carter leads the team in sacks with 17, while linebacker Tommy Tate leads the team with 170 tackles. Defensive back Shon Akins, a California commitment, and the Norcross secondary have 10 interceptions.
The Norcross offense had a scare last week when running back/receiver Myles Autry was hurt. The junior is expected to play today. He's been a nice compliment to Kamara at running back, one of the nation's top college recruits, who has rushed for 2,120 yards and 25 TDs.
"Their running back, I can understand why Alabama is recruiting him," Hughes said. "They are big and athletic at every position."
Quarterback Joseph Wilber has thrown for 2,347 yards with 27 TDs and five interceptions. Autry has been his leading receiver and Clinton Lynch is second.
It's those kind of playmakers that have given Norcross a confidence it will win every time it steps on the field.
"We feel like we don't need to talk trash to other teams or stuff like that. We go about our business and take things day-by-day," Wilber said. "It's just another week for us. We're not putting any special importance on this for us. We're just going to go out and win another game."