Norcross not taking South for granted in rematch

File Photo South Gwinnett quarterback Jordan Ramey (2) tries to avoid the tackly by Norcross defenders Lorenzo Carter (25) and Michael Marshall (57) during the game the two played earlier this season.

File Photo South Gwinnett quarterback Jordan Ramey (2) tries to avoid the tackly by Norcross defenders Lorenzo Carter (25) and Michael Marshall (57) during the game the two played earlier this season.


Norcross Blue Devils Jeremiah Murphy (38), Jaquan Frazier (45) and Jermone Pledger (30) mentally prepare for the first round of Class AAAAAA high school football playoff game against Chattahoochee last week. Norcross defeated Chattahoochee 34-7 advancing to the second round against South Gwinnett.

South Gwinnett at Norcross

South Gwinnett Comets (8-AAAAAA)

Coach: John Small

Record: 9-2

Last week: Beat Milton 27-20

Norcross Blue Devils (7-AAAAAA)

Coach: Keith Maloof

Record: 11-0

Last week: Beat Chattahoochee 34-7

Last meeting: Norcross won 35-20 this year

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Directions to Norcross High School: From I-85, go west on Beaver Ruin Road to Buford Highway and turn right. At the next light, turn left on Langford Drive. Cross Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and turn left on Spalding Drive. School is on the left

We've all heard the cliche.

It's hard to beat a football team twice in one season.

You don't have to remind Keith Maloof and the Norcross football program.

The Blue Devils easily defeated Dacula in the season opener last year.

When the two met again in the first round of the playoffs, the Falcons were victorious. It's a similar scenario for Friday night's second round Class AAAAAA playoff game.

Norcross opened the year with a win over South Gwinnett and will host the Comets again in the playoffs.

"We've had that in the back of our minds since we walked off the field against Dacula," Maloof said.

Norcross is riding an 11-game winning streak. It won its first Region 7 crown since 2007 and a victory Friday would put the Blue Devils in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2006.

"Nothing has changed," South Gwinnett head coach John Small said. "They are as good as ever. They keep getting better each week."

South (9-2) has tasted just one other defeat this year, a humbling 41-0 loss to defending state champion Grayson.

"They are more confident in what they are doing," Maloof said. "They are more polished. It comes down to who makes the least amount of mistakes."

Norcross beat Chattahoochee 34-7 in last week's first round playoff game despite drawing 19 penalties.

"We've still got to clean some things up," Maloof said. "I'd like to have less penalties."

Norcross has been on a roll the last four weeks. The Blue Devils have won their last four games by an average of 38 points. The defense, led by defensive end Lorenzo Carter (16 sacks), linebacker Tommy Tate (122 tackles) and defensive back Shon Akins, didn't allow a touchdown in last week's playoff win over Chattahoochee.

"They are a great team," Small said. "They are solid across the board. You can't find a weakness on the team."

Running back Alvin Kamara has rushed for 1,590 yards and 20 TDs this year, while back up running back Myles Autry has 465 yards and five TDs. Quarterback Joseph Wilber has thrown for 1,952 yards with 23 TDs and just three interceptions.

"It all comes down to the offensive line and how they play," Maloof said.

The Comets have reeled off four straight wins since the loss to the Rams, including two last-minute fourth-quarter drives to lock up the No. 2 seed in Region 8. South beat Milton 27-20 in last week's first round game by holding off a late charge by the Eagles.

"Overall it was a great team win. They showed a lot of guts," Small said.

South's defense held Kamara, the state's No. 1 recruited running back, to 10 yards in the first half the first time they played. He finished the game with 168 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including a 48-yard score.

"You have to keep him contained," Small said. "He's going to get his yards. You can't let him have big runs."

South was also plagued by several miscues. The Comets were called for 17 penalties and quarterback Jordan Ramey threw an interception returned for a touchdown by Norcross defensive lineman Cole Kisner.

"We made way too many mistakes to win that game. They took advantage of that," Small said.

Ramey has developed into one of the county's top passers in his only full year as a starter. The senior has thrown for 2,362 yards and 22 TDs. He led both of South's fourth-quarter comebacks against Brookwood and Parkview.

South is in the playoffs for the third time in four years. The Comets haven't won a second-round postseason game since 2003. The winner of Friday's game will play the Camden County vs. East Coweta winner in next week's quarterfinals.

"It would be huge step for our program," Small said. "Our ultimate goal is to win a state championship. You have to win that second round game first. It would be great for our community."