Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Norcross' Myles Autry (5) leaps over his teammate Maaseiah Francis (1) as he gains yardage during the game against Collins Hill earlier this month.
Norcross Blue Devils (7-AAAAAA)
Coach: Keith Maloof
Record: 8-0, 6-0 region
Last week: Beat Mountain View 48-6
Peachtree Ridge Lions (7-AAAAAA)
Coach: Mark Fleetwood
Record: 3-4, 3-2 region
Last week: Had a bye
Last meeting: Peachtree Ridge won 41-14 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.
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
If you ask Keith Maloof, Friday night sets up like a trap for Norcross.
The unbeaten and state-ranked Blue Devils ride to Peachtree Ridge for what looks to be a matchup of programs heading opposite ways.
Norcross is riding a dominant defense and a strong offense through a stellar season and Peachtree Ridge has struggled to this point to hold on to leads, even late in games.
Don't tell Maloof any of those things.
"They are a good team that is ready to explode at any time," Maloof said. "For whatever reason, they haven't finished. You can't look at records. They are very good. We are going in there like they are the top team in the region."
At the moment, Norcross is actually the top team in the region.
A motivating force for Peachtree Ridge as the Lions come off the bye week, riding a win over Habersham Central.
"I think they get excited because it's a team like Norcross," said Peachtree Ridge head coach Mark Fleetwood. "The kids get excited about it. Here you have one of the top-ranked teams in the state, this is what it's all about. Here's a great challenge for us."
The Lions host Norcross, a seeming advantage for an upset, but this Norcross team is conditioned to playing on the road. Wins over South Gwinnett, North Gwinnett, Mill Creek and Collins Hill all came on the road, a sign of the maturity of the Blue Devils.
"You have a lot of guys that were young last year," Maloof said. "We had to start six or seven sophomores last year because of injuries. A lot of guys got a lot of playing experience going into this season.
"I am really proud of how they have gotten ready on the road."
Slowing Norcross starts with stopping the two-headed running attack of Alvin Kamara and Myles Autry and hoping quarterback Joseph Wilber and receiver Clinton Lynch can be controlled, Fleetwood said. But for Peachtree Ridge, which has watched leads vanish and close games turn ugly, the biggest worry is not letting up in the second half.
"To beat a playoff team you have to be able to play four quarters and you have to be able to control four quarters," Fleetwood said. "That is something we've addressed. We have to correct it and do a better job coaching to get them to do it."
Norcross spent its week trying to improve a penalty issue that has slowed the Blue Devils' offense at times this season, but like the road wins and late-game comebacks, Norcross hasn't let the hiccups slow it down.
Peachtree Ridge is hoping it can.
"Historically, this has been a great series," Maloof said. "We know they are going to be ready for us."