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Two big plays spark comeback, Norcross' first state title

Norcross' Tommy Tate (51), Shon Akins (3), Joseph Wilber (7) and Alvin Kamara (6) hoist the state championship trophy after defeating Lovejoy 21-14 during the Class AAAAAA state championship game at the Georgia Dome.

Norcross' Tommy Tate (51), Shon Akins (3), Joseph Wilber (7) and Alvin Kamara (6) hoist the state championship trophy after defeating Lovejoy 21-14 during the Class AAAAAA state championship game at the Georgia Dome.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Lovejoy's Montrell Custis (21) gets a pass interference call against him as Norcross' Clinton Lynch leaps in the air to try and make the catch during the first half of Saturday's Class AAAAAA state championship game at the Georgia Dome.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Norcross' Alvin Kamara catches the go-ahead touchdown pass over Lovejoy's Veion Robinson (32) and Cinwon Whitehead late in the second half of Saturday's Class AAAAAA state championship game at the Georgia Dome.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Norcross head coach Keith Maloof celebrates with his teammates Noah Bradsher, left, and Xavier Triche (84) as the final seconds wind down in the Class AAAAAA state championship game at the Georgia Dome.

ATLANTA -- The Denver Broncos have "The Drive." The San Francisco 49ers have "The Catch."

After the Class AAAAAA state championship game, Norcross now has "The Pass" and "The Stop."

The former was Joseph Wilber's 61-yard touchdown bomb to Alvin Kamara with 4:26 remaining that gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the game.

The latter was a three-man Norcross gang tackle of Lovejoy's Travis Custis to turn the ball over on downs with 3:16 remaining.

A Kamara scoring run and a Jaquan Frazier interception later, and the Blue Devils could finally celebrate their first state title with a 21-14 win Saturday night at the Georgia Dome.

The two big plays capped a run of 18 unanswered fourth-quarter points and helped Norcross (15-0) steal what seemed like an improbable victory after managing just 104 yards, eight first downs and three points through the first three quarters.

"It feels awesome," Norcross coach Keith Maloof said in a television interview immediately after the game. "I can't tell you how proud I am of how our kids fought. We got down and things didn't go our way in the first half. ... But we found a way."

That way didn't seem possible after Alejandro Bennefield's 6-yard TD pass to Brandon Davis with 1:34 left in the third quarter sent Lovejoy (13-2) into the final frame with a 14-3 lead.

But the Blue Devils took inspiration from two sources.

One was a defense that held Custis, a Georgia Tech commit who came into the game with 2,058 yards and 35 TDS, to just 59 yards on 20 carries, including just 2 yards on 11 carries in the second half.

And that unit held the Wildcats to a three-and-out to give the offense the ball back at the Norcross 40 with 9:39 remaining.

"Our defense stepped it up," Maloof said. "The defense kept giving us shot after shot after shot."

That first shot came from the second source of inspiration after moving down to the Lovejoy 11-yard line and facing third and 8.

Myles Autry, who had seen action in just nine plays to that point while nursing an injured knee, snagged a ball over the middle, made a move and zipped into the end zone.

The two-point conversion failed, but Norcross had pulled to within 14-9 with 7:17 still left to play.

Once again, the Blue Devils defense came up big with a three-and-out stop, and Autry had his only other catch of the night -- a 10-yard reception from Wilber to give Norcross the ball near midfield.

But it was what happened two plays later that Norcross fans will forever be talking about.

Facing third and 14 at the Norcross 39, Wilber, who completed just 6 of 14 passes on the evening, fired a long ball down the left sideline.

The pass barely evaded a leaping Lovejoy defensive back and hit Kamara in stride as he tight-roped the sideline to go the distance for the 61-yard TD that put the Blue Devils in front 15-14 with 4:26 to play.

"With Alvin, we knew we had a mismatch with the linebacker," Maloof said.

Norcross' other play for the ages came three plays into Lovejoy's ensuing possession on a fourth-and-1 situation at the Wildcats' 33.

Custis got the ball and tried to move around the left side to pick up the first down, but was slowed down by Zach Forte.

Forte couldn't bring down the 6-foot, 215-pound senior, but he bought enough time for Jamarcus Connally and Lorenzo Carter to finish off the play for a 2-yard loss, and give the Blue Devils the ball on downs at the 31 with 3:16 left.

After a big 16-yard run for a first down by Kamara, Lovejoy let the senior, who finished with 119 yards on 33 carries, score from 10 yards out to get one more chance with the score 21-14 following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and missed extra point with 1:33 left.

But Frazier's pick of Bennefield at the Norcross 25 with 45 seconds left sealed the win, and the title for Norcross.

GAME STATS

NORCROSS 21, LOVEJOY 14

Lovejoy 0 7 7 0 ― 14

Norcross 0 0 3 18 ― 21

First Quarter

None

Second Quarter

Lovejoy: JuMichael Ramos 60 pass from Alejandro Bennefield (Jaimie Nunez kick), 1:30

Third Quarter

Norcross: Joseph Mahfood 31 FG, 5:47

Lovejoy: Brandon Davis 6 pass from Bennefield (Nunez kick), 1:34

Fourth Quarter

Norcross: Myles Autry 11 pass from Joseph Wilber (pass failed), 7:17

Norcross: Alvin Kamara 61 pass from Wilber (run failed), 4:26

Norcross: Kamara 10 run (kick failed), 1:33

Team Statistics

Lov Norc

First downs 9 13

Rushes-yards 23-49 47-142

Passing yards 177 120

Att.-Comp.-INT 12-26-2 7-15-0

Fumbles-lost 2-0 3-2

Penalties-yards 6-60 5-50

Individual Statistics

Rushing — Lovejoy: Travis Custis 20-59, Bennefield 2-(-9), TEAM 1-(-1). Norcross: Kamara 33-119, Clinton Lynch 2-15, Wilber 10-10,

TEAM 2-(-2).

Passing — Lovejoy: Bennefield 12-26-2, 177. Norcross: Wilber 6-14-0, 84; Kamara 1-1-0, 35.

Receiving — Lovejoy: Ramos 4-89, Brandon Davis 3-23, A.J. Jackson 2-42, Custis 1-15, Terry Henderson 1-9, Jeff Murphy 1-0. Norcross: Kamara 3-62, Lynch 2-39, Autry 2-21, Trey Smith 1-8.