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Young Norcross team grows up to be region champs

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Norcross' Blake Wood (55) and Trenton Jenkins (68) celebrate during the game against Collins Hill earlier this season.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Norcross' Blake Wood (55) and Trenton Jenkins (68) celebrate during the game against Collins Hill earlier this season.

Before the season even started, Norcross head coach Keith Maloof thought he had a football team capable of doing something special this year.

The Blue Devils' lineup was filled with juniors who saw significant action a year ago due to injuries.

Many of them became first-year starters this season and have flourished.

Norcross (9-0) locked up the Region 7-AAAAAA title two weeks ago and can complete an undefeated regular season with a victory over Meadowcreek on Friday.

"It's big. It's a big deal," Maloof said of the title. "The first goal is to make the playoffs and the second is the region title."

It's the fourth region crown for the program, which also claimed titles in 1991, 2006 and 2007.

The last three region titles have been won under Maloof, who is 122-48 in 14 seasons as the head coach at Norcross.

"I think if you go back and look, there are some similarities," Maloof said of this year's squad and the 2006-07 teams. "This team has a true running back that the other teams didn't have. They are both strong on defense and good at the receiver spots."

The 2006-07 region champion teams featured standouts like Darius Hanks, Devonta Bolton and Brice Butler.

This year's squad is just as talented led by running back Alvin Kamara, receiver/running back Myles Autry and defensive end Lorezno Carter.

"These kids are playing well together," Maloof said. "They don't care about who gets the yards or whatever."

Autry and Carter are part of a talented junior class. They are joined by an offensive line that rotates six players and features five juniors.

"It's all depended on how the offensive line played. They showed they can compete," Maloof said.

The group features Joseph Ledford, Blake Wood, Trenton Jenkins, Caleb Crum, Ryan Northrup and Horatio Walker. They've led the way for Kamara to be one of the county's top running backs with 1,263 yards and 14 touchdowns and have given protection for quarterback Joseph Wilber to throw for 1,573 yards, 19 touchdown and three interceptions.

The defense has been led by Carter's county-leading 13 sacks, while Jahmal Jones is third with eight. Tommy Tate has posted 104 tackles at linebacker. The defensive line rotates five players at four positions and the linebackers split time at the three spots with four players.

"They've come together," Maloof said. "I think the key on defense is being able to stay fresh by rotating people in."

The Blue Devils opened the season with wins over playoff-bound Parkview and South Gwinnett from Region 8-AAAAAA.

Norcross had to win its biggest games on the road to claim the region title. Victories over defending region champion North Gwinnett, Mill Creek, Collins Hill and Peachtree Ridge locked up the crown. The closest was a 49-41 win over Mill Creek after letting a 35-point lead slip away.

"We still haven't played our best football. We've shown flashes of it," Maloof said.

The reward for winning the region title has put Norcross in arguably the toughest part of the Class AAAAAA playoff bracket. The Blue Devils are in the same part with No. 1 ranked Camden and may see defending state champion Grayson in the second round.

"We're really just worried about one right now," Maloof said. "If you don't win that first one, it doesn't matter about the second one."