Staff Photo: John Bohn Norcross defensive ends Jahmal Jones (9) and Lorenzo Carter (25) sack South Gwinnett quarterback Jordan Ramey (2) during the third quarter of a second round Class AAAAAA playoff football game on Friday.
NORCROSS -- Friday night's second-round game of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs between Norcross and South Gwinnett was all about opportunity.
It knocked for both teams, but it was the No. 2 state-ranked Blue Devils who answered more especially while pulling away in the second half for a 27-7 victory Friday night at Norcross Community Stadium.
Alvin Kamara ran for 185 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries as Norcross (12-0) converted just enough on their opportunities to push into the state quarterfinals, where it will take on fourth-ranked Camden County next week, for the first time in six years.
"That's what (the coaching staff) has been preaching all week -- take advantage of opportunities," said Kamara, who scored on runs of 2, 3 and 10 yards on the evening. "We saw what we did wrong in the first half, and we went in and corrected it and hit on some plays we knew would work."
Norcross actually started quite quickly after fielding South's squib of the opening kickoff at its own 44-yard line.
The Blue Devils drove 56 yards in seven plays -- including a fourth-down conversion on a completion from Joseph Wilber to Myles Autry down to the South 22-yard line.
On the next snap, Autry took a direct snap from the Wildcat formation and darted through the Comets defense for a 22-yard score that put the Blue Devils up 7-0 just 3:29 into the game.
The rest of the half was highlighted by missed scoring opportunities and miscues by both sides.
Norcross twice more moved inside the South 30-yard line, only to come up short on fourth downs both times, while the Comets had two drives cut short by turnovers.
The second one was a second-quarter interception by Kevin Mouhon that the junior returned 51 yards, which gave Norcross the ball on the South 2 after a half the distance penalty on the Comets.
Kamara dove in from 2 yards out on the next snap to extend the Norcross lead to 14-0 with 8:31 left in the first half.
But Norcross missed two extend the lead further -- one on a illegal motion penalty that nullified what would have been a 36-yard TD run by Kamara and another on a Mason Hart interception on the next play.
Then it looked like the Blue Devils would give the Comets extra life on the ensuing drive when a defensive holding penalty wiped out what would've been a Michael Marshall fumble recovery at the Norcross 8 with less than a minute to play in the half.
But South let an opportunity of its own slip away.
With the Comets out of timeouts and facing third and goal from the Norcross 2, Jordan Ramey dropped back to pass and looked to throw into the end zone.
But he was blindsided by Bryant Henderson, who brought down Ramey at the 11, and the Comets could not get lined up for a fourth-down attempt before the clock ran out, sending the Blue Devils into intermission with its 14-0 lead intact.
"We didn't take advantage of some opportunities we had in the first half to score some points," South coach John Small said. "In a game of this magnitude, you've got to take advantage of every opportunity you can get. We didn't do that, and then in the second half (Norcross) took advantage of some things."
For the Blue Devils, the late stop in the first half turned out to be a big shot in the arm.
"That's huge," Norcross coach Keith Maloof said. "That's a momentum thing. You keep points off the board right before half. If they'd have gone in 14-7, they've got the momentum and they've got the (second half) kickoff. So they've got the confidence. But the defense was able to keep them out, and it was a big deal for us."
An even bigger deal was when the Blue Devils defense -- which gave up 271 yards to South for the game, including 182 through the air on 19-of-27 passing from Ramey, but forced three turnovers and sacked Ramey five times -- was able to force the Comets to punt on the first possession of the second half.
Kamara and Myles Autry (6-64, TD rushing, 3-10 receiving) were then able to wear down the South defense out of the Wildcat formation on Norcross' initial possession of the third quarter.
The pair combined for on all 80 yards on an eight-play drive that drained 4:05 from the clock and ended when Kamara bolted into the end zone from 3 yards out to push the Blue Devils lead to 20-0 with 5:45 left in the period.
Kamara's third TD run of the game, which made the score 27-0 with 6:15 left to play, essentially put the game out of reach.
The Comets were able to avoid the shutout when Ramey capped a six-play, 75-yard drive with a 5-yard scoring strike to Bernard Morrison to make the score 27-7 with 4:46 left.