PREVIEW: North Gwinnett at Peachtree Ridge

North Gwinnett's Michael Pucciarello.

North Gwinnett's Michael Pucciarello.

North Gwinnett Bulldogs (7-AAAAAA)

Coach: Bob Sphire

Record: 8-1, 6-1 region

Last week: Beat Mountain View 49-7

Peachtree Ridge Lions


Coach: Mark Fleetwood

Record: 4-5, 4-3 region

Last week: Beat Meadowcreek 61-0

North Gwinnett’s in an odd spot. All season long, the Bulldogs played each week fighting for a playoff spot and a chance at another postseason run. Now, entering the final week of the regular season, North has secured the valuable berth and also can’t improve its seeding with a win Friday.

“It’s one of those things where we have one eye on one and one eye on the other,” North head coach Bob Sphire said. “It’s a cross-town rival and we have respect for them and their program. The kids grew up playing against each other. You can’t take that out of it.”

Nor can you remove the inevitable for both teams, playoffs for North, offseason for Peachtree Ridge.

“It’s going to be their playoff game,” Sphire said. “Hopefully it will make us a better football team.”

Not that North needed to do much tinkering or improving. The one-loss Bulldogs haven’t lost since Week 3 and have scored more than 30 points in each of their seven wins since.

And it’s been more than just the big names, creating the big wins. Sphire enjoys talking about the players that fill out his team beyond the standouts. Players like Michael Pucciarello.

“He’s been a key player for our team,” Sphire said of his senior tight end. “Last week he had two catches early in the game to kind of start things off. It’s those guys, that maybe aren’t making the big huge plays.”

Last meeting: North Gwinnett won 28-0 last year

Directions to Peachtree Ridge High School: From I-85, take the Old Peachtree Road exit and go west. School is roughly two miles ahead on the right.