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Norcross takes down defending region champion North 31-21

Norcross receiver Trey Smith (21) catches a long pass while defended by North Gwinnett's Robert Pucciarello (3) and Bobby Young (12) during the first quarter of Friday's game.

Norcross receiver Trey Smith (21) catches a long pass while defended by North Gwinnett's Robert Pucciarello (3) and Bobby Young (12) during the first quarter of Friday's game.

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Norcross quarterback Joseph Wilber (7) celebrates a first down during the third quarter against North Gwinnett on Friday night.

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Norcross running back Myles Autry (5) makes a catch while covered by North Gwinnett's Robert Pucciarello (3) in the final play of the third quarter during Friday night's game. The play set up a fourth and one yard to go situation.

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North Gwinnett quarterback Michael Haynes (13) is tackled by Norcross's Tommy Tate (51) during the second quarter of Friday's game.

SUWANEE -- Norcross put itself in good position to win its first region title in five years.

Clinton Lynch caught two touchdown passes as No. 7 Norcross knocked off No. 4 North Gwinnett 31-21 on Friday.

It's the first time Norcross has defeated North since 2007, when the Blue Devils won their last region title.

"We're proud to be where we are at, but we've got seven more ball games left," Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. "It's wide open. We've got our work cut out for us. This isn't nothing. We have a lot of work to do and get a whole lot better."

It was the region opener for both teams, but it was a big win for Norcross (3-0, 1-0 region) after seeing its 22-point fourth quarter lead vanish to North last last year.

Norcross' win snaps North's 22-game winning streak in region play that spanned over three years. The Bulldogs (2-1, 0-1) have won the last three Region 7 championships.

JaQuan Simpkins recovered a punt to set up one of Lynch's touchdowns. The junior then intercepted a pass and batted down another on fourth-down in the end zone to end North's comeback.

"He's a heck of a corner. He's done a great job the last two years," Maloof said.

Kamara, the state's No. 1 rated running back, had 92 yards on 19 carries, one touchdown and a fumble. Kamara got 40 of those yards on a run with less then three minutes in the game.

"They did a great job on him and Myles (Autry) tonight," Maloof said.

With North able to shut down Norcross' running game, that allowed Wilber to move the offense threw the air. The senior was 10 of 17 for 169 yards and two touchdowns.

"They are a great football team," Maloof said. "They are big, physical up front and have a good defense. We were able to do some things with them taking away the run and that's what opened up the pass a good bit."

Norcross began the game with four penalties and had 15 for 100 yards in the game, but recovered on the next series.

After North's Michael D'Angola missed a 44-yard field goal, the Blue Devils got to the Bulldogs' 10 after Trey Smith's 39-yard catch. Norcross had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Joseph Mahfood to take a 3-0 just before the quarter ended.

"He did a great job with the field and his extra points," Maloof said.

Norcross went up 10-0 after Lynch broke two tackles for a 29-yard touchdown catch from Wilber. Lynch finished with four catches for 83 yards.

North responded with Haynes running for 18 yards on third down to keep the drive alive. The senior then threw a six-yard TD pass to Almonzo Brown to make it a 10-7 game with 5:43 left in the half.

Norcross went up 17-7 on Kamara's five-yard touchdown run to start the third quarter.

Kevin Mouhon intercepted Haynes on the next possession and went 86 yards down the right sideline for the score and a 24-7 lead with 5:09 left in the third.

"That's big. That's the playmakers on defense," Maloof said.

North came right back with Haynes scoring on a 13-yard run to cut the lead to 24-14. Haynes was 23 of 40 for 237 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. The senior completed passes to seven different receivers, led by Almonzo Brown's six catches for 99 yards.

After Haynes' TD, Norcoss converted two fourth-downs and Simpkins recovered a North fumbled punt return to give the Blue Devils the ball at the 30. Lynch scored his second TD on a 30-yard pass from Wilber to put the Blue Devils ahead 31-14 with 9:31 left in the game.

North came back with a seven-yard touchdown catch by Nate Brown from Haynes. Kamara fumbled on the next possession for Norcross, but Simpkins got the ball back with an interception. He then batted down a pass in the North end zone on fourth down to end the Bulldogs' comeback attempt.