Staff Photo: John Bohn Norcross defensive back JaQuan Simpkins (4) makes a diving tackle on South Gwinnett wide receiver L.J. Gainey during Friday's game played at South Gwinnett High School.
SNELLVILLE -- It took two plays.
In two plays, Norcross erased a first-half of stalled drives. In two plays, Norcross took back a game's worth of momentum built by South Gwinnett. In two plays, Alvin Kamara changed everything.
Norcross trailed by one point at halftime to South Gwinnett and the Comets fired out of the locker room with a 70-yard scoring drive to take a 14-6 lead at home over its county rival. The South defense limited Kamara to just 10 first-half yards on six carries, his final three netting minus-4.
Two carries later, the senior running back with Division I schools chasing after him, was in the end zone with 78 more yards to his rushing total, including a 48-yard touchdown run, and setting the stage for a comeback win for Norcross 35-20 to open the season.
"First half, I wasn't really pleased with my body language and how I was carrying myself," Kamara said. "Sometimes it's not going to go your way, blocking-wise. I talked with my coaches at halftime just to get my body language up and to be more of a leader. I got in my head and made a decision to step up and be a leader for my team and just go out there and get it done."
Get it done he did. He carried the ball on eight of the Blue Devils first nine plays of the second half and the only play he didn't get the ball was erased by a penalty. In those eight plays, Kamara rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
"We came out in the second half and, you know, you give it to your guy," Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. "If they are going to beat you, they are going to beat you with your best guy going and that's what we went into the third quarter with."
Kamara rushed for 128 of his 168 total yards in the third quarter, getting holes every way he turned.
"We needed to come out in the second half and make a statement and let them know we weren't going anywhere, let then know they didn't have us down and feeling sorry for ourselves," Kamara said. "The line came out in the second half and did great."
And Kamara might not play defense, but after those two plays, South's offense vanished. On the drive following the game-tying touchdown, the Comets lost 31 yards in three plays before punting. After Kamara's second touchdown, they retreated again. The Norcross defense limited South to four second-half first downs and the Comets picked up two of those on their opening touchdown drive.
And Alvin Kamara doesn't play defense.
"It's a team sport. Everybody feeds off everybody," Maloof said. "When the defense plays great the offense is going to pick it up, same thing with the offense and defense."
The defense capped the Blue Devils' scoring with an interception return for a touchdown by defensive end Cole Kisner to put the game out of reach.
"It's good for that kid, he's worked hard," Maloof said of the rare defensive lineman touchdown. "It's always fun."
Before the game-changing two carries, South snatched control of the game early. The Comets stymied Norcross for much of the first half, only allowing the Blue Devils one touchdown on a pass from Joseph Wilber to Trey Smith.
Jordan Ramey then directed a South drive and finished it off with a 7-yard pass to Trevon Davis to give South a small 7-6 halftime lead.
Then came the big third quarter drive for South, which carved its way through the Blue Devils' defense, mostly on the ground to take a 14-6 lead when Ramey found Coray Keel with a 35-yard rocket under pressure. Ramey ended the night with 142 yards with two touchdowns on 12 of 24 passing. South also got its own big highlight when Bernard Morrison returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 85 yards, sprinting past every defender.
For Norcross, Jordan Wilber also threw for a pair of scores and 142 yards on 15 of 22 passing. His second touchdown came in the fourth quarter to Clinton Lynch.
"We can throw, we can do what we need to do," Maloof said. "We need to get in the end zone though when Alvin is not a factor and we are throwing and doing what we're doing."