Norcross defensive ends Jahmal Jones (9) and Lorenzo Carter (25) celebrate sacking South Gwinnett quarterback Jordan Ramey during the third quarter of a a second round Class AAAAAA playoff football game on Friday.
Norcross' 27-7 win over South Gwinnett in Friday's second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs at Norcross Community Stadium was a historic one for the program.
It not only tied the school single-season record for wins and marked just the second time the No. 2 state-ranked Blue Devils had won 12 straight games to start a season, it also put the Blue Devils in the state quarterfinals for just the third time in the school's long history.
"It was a big night," Norcross coach Keith Maloof said. "This is a good team. They've worked hard. They've got a lot to prove week in and week out. We've sustained some things and worked through a lot."
North's Sphire prepping for Lovejoy
Just moments after North Gwinnett's 28-10 win over Grayson, head coach Bob Sphire was already making preparations for next week's game.
"I sent a text to my wife and I said, 'Get me some clothes ready and send food to the office because I ain't coming home. I've got to get ready for Lovejoy,'" Sphire said.
North will travel to face a Lovejoy program that was state runner-up in Class AAAA last year. The Wildcats are 11-1 this season, with their only loss a 14-7 defeat by Colquitt County.
"They are very good. We played them in 7-on-7 a couple of times. They definitely bring it," North Gwinnett quarterback Michael Haynes said. "They're in the third round of the playoffs for a reason. We know we have to bring our A game."
North faced Lovejoy in a 7-on-7 tournament at Lassiter this summer that Sphire says the Wildcats dominated.
"They smacked us around this summer in 7-on-7. I know it's not real football, but it wasn't even competitive," Sphire said. "They are so much more competitive than us. They beat us unmercifully this summer in 7-on-7. It wasn't even competitive."
North's Lewis has strong day vs. Grayson D
North Gwinnett running back Cam Lewis quietly rushed for 117 yards on 16 carries in the Bulldogs' win over Grayson.
Lewis' biggest run of the night was a 66-yard gain to start the second half. The rest of the night he picked away at the Grayson defense thanks to his offensive line.
"The offensive line, they are probably not getting any credit right now, and as good as that defensive front is, that's a huge performance by that offensive line," Sphire said.
Lewis' 100-yard rushing performance was the second 100-yard rusher the Grayson defense allowed all season. McEachern had a 100-yard rusher in the season opener.
North's Sawyer continues to make plays
North Gwinnett defensive lineman Dante Sawyer is developing a knack for making big plays.
Sawyer had a forced fumble he recovered on the game's opening drive against Grayson on Friday and then had a 17-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.
"Those are big. He's been a big play guy for us from the opener against Colquitt," Sphire said. "He's kind of been a game changer."
Sawyer forced a fumble in North's win over Colquitt County that the Bulldogs recovered and returned for a touchdown.
He also had an interception returned for a score against Mill Creek. Sawyer, who has picked up multiple Division I football scholarship offers, credits film study for his big plays.
"I just knew the snap count from the past couple of plays," Sawyer said. "I knew what was coming just from watching the film."
Hawks' defense shines, too
Mill Creek's near-flawless offense stole the spotlight, with good reason, on Friday night.
The Hawks scored on their first eight possessions in a 56-21 victory over Brookwood, but several of those scores came on short fields as the defense forced four Bronco turnovers -- three interceptions and a fumble recovery. All four led to touchdowns.
Kelsey Griffin's fumble recovery was the first takeaway and it gave the Hawks possession at the Brookwood 47. Three plays later, Jacorey Lewis scored on a 24-yard run.
B.J. Harmon then returned an interception to the Bronco 5-yard line, setting up a two-play scoring drive and another Lewis TD, and then Zac Turner stopped the next Brookwood drive with a diving interception.
Chris Dickhute intercepted a pass on Brookwood's first offensive play of the third quarter and returned it to the Bronco 12-yard line. Two plays later, DeVozea Felton scored on a 7-yard run.
"Our defense is playing extremely well right now," Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said. "We did some good things (against Brookwood). ... I couldn't be prouder of those kids and of Coach (Tommy) Scott and our defensive coaches."
Michael Leonard had a sack and a tackle for a loss early for the Hawks' defense.
Carson gives Parkview a boost
Parkview may have used last week's double-overtime win at Walton as inspiration for its overtime win over West Forsyth on Friday night, but one Panther made sure that he did all he could for a little more support.
Running back Chris Carson, who had his season ended in the Berkmar game with a broken leg, was finally able to rejoin his teammates on the sidelines in the 26-23 overtime win over the Wolverines.
Carson was parked on the sidelines next to the team around the 30-yard line most of the night, covering his broken leg with an orange blanket to keep his leg warm against a stiff northwesterly breeze while showing his support.
"It was real important for me to be here because this is the playoffs and it could be our last game," Carson said.
Carson was on pace for a monster season with over 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground before his season ended in the Battle for the Green Flag against the Patriots.
Defense gets it done for Buford
The Buford defense officially recorded its third shutout of the season as the Wolves blanked high-scoring North Oconee13-0 in the second roundof the Class AAA state playoffs Friday night. And it came following the season-high 27 points Buford allowed to Cedar Grove just a week earlier.
Buford also held North Oconee's Kawon Bryant to just 74 yards and quarterback Nick Colvin to 1 of 6 passing for 17 yards. Bryant came intothe game with 1,089 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Colvin, who was injured a week ago against Ringgold, had thrown for 890 yards, rushed for 626 yards and had 228 receivingyards coming intothe Buford game.
-- Sports Editor Will Hammock, staff writers Brandon Brigman and David Friedlander, senior correspondent Scott Smith and staff correspondent Steve Argo contributed to this report.