Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan South Gwinnett quarterback Jordan Ramey (2) scrambles past the diving Duluth defensive lineman Amari Barrett (55) during high school football action in Duluth on Friday.
HIGHLIGHTS: Duluth vs. South Gwinnett
Highlights from the Duluth vs. South Gwinnett football game in which the Comets defeated the Wildcats 37-21.
DULUTH -- Plenty of things felt similar to South Gwinnett's first game Friday night.
Except for how the Comets responded.
Against Norcross, South Gwinnett committed 17 penalties, stalling drives and going the wrong direction. Against Duluth, the Comets had 15 penalties, but overcame many of them with big plays. Against Norcross, South Gwinnett gave up a big play early in the second half and seemed to wilt under the pressure. Against Duluth, the Comets gave up a big touchdown run in the third quarter and answered with a big touchdown of its own.
Against Norcross, South Gwinnett lost. Against Duluth, the Comets won 37-21.
"I am very proud of the way our kids responded," said South head coach John Small. "Last week we kind of fell by the wayside when things didn't go our way but the kids showed a lot of grit tonight, kept battling and it worked out for us."
One of the biggest battlers was South's quarterback Jordan Ramey. The senior struggled against the Norcross pressure, but returned with a huge game against Duluth. He threw for 242 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 129 more yard, including scrambles of 15-plus yards for first downs to keep scoring drives alive.
"He's such a weapon back there," Small said of Ramey. "He can throw it, he can run it. They guy can beat you with his legs. Tonight he came back and he responded. He answered the call."
The penalties came early for South.
On the opening drive, South went 80 yards in 13 plays despite four penalties, including two on consecutive plays. Josh Boyd capped the drive with a 2-yard plunge. It was the first of two touchdowns for Boyd, who rushed for 131 yards on 21 carries to lead the Comets on the ground.
But Duluth answered two possessions later with a 50-yard throw and run from Will DeLorenzo to Lavonte Crawford. DeLorenzo hit Crawford in the middle of the of South's defenders and the speedy Crawford sprinted past the Comets for the bulk of the 50 yards.
South re-took the lead late in the second quarter with a 17-yard scoring run by Bernard Morrison. Ramey rushed for 26 yards on the drive including an 18-yard scramble on third-and-7 to set up Morrison's score.
South had a chance to score in the final minute of the half, driving down to the Duluth 8. But on third down, the Comets tried a trick double-handoff sniffed out by Duluth's Cedric Long. Long tackled the first runner as he handed the ball off and popped and and brought down Morrison for a 12-yard loss, saving a score and keeping the Wildcats within one score.
Myles Campbell returned for Duluth in the second half and after two passes just missed the speedy athlete, Duluth finally got the ball to its biggest threat on a long toss. Campbell took the ball and sprinted past every Comet on the field for a 55-yard touchdown tying the game at 15-15.
But unlike the week before, when South quickly punted and gave up another big play, the Comets struck two players later on a 68-yard pass from Ramey to L.J. Gainey. Gainey broke through the arms of two defenders in the open field to wriggle free for the go-ahead score. Gainey caught seven of Ramey's passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Duluth kept it close with another long score, this time a 54-yard pass from DeLorenzo to Jordan Dandridge, but South blocked the extra point try and Duluth never scored again.
After a Duluth safety on a botched punt, Boyd puched in his second touchdown for South and the Comets capped the scoring with a 1-yard dive by Travon Davis who rushed for 77 yards. As a team the Comets ran the ball 52 times for 370 yards.
"It's a great group of kids, they fight hard, they have a lot of character," Small said.