Spotlight comes to Norcross

Norcross, South play Florida powers today on ESPN

Norcross defenders Kevin Mouhon (48) and Lorenzo Carter (25) stop Lovejoy’s Travis Custis (22) during the first half of the Class AAAAAA state championship game at the Georgia Dome. (File Photo)

Norcross defenders Kevin Mouhon (48) and Lorenzo Carter (25) stop Lovejoy’s Travis Custis (22) during the first half of the Class AAAAAA state championship game at the Georgia Dome. (File Photo)


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Pick up your copy of the 2013 Football Preview in the print edition of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

When a game becomes an event, plenty of straddling becomes a necessity.

Not every week are high school football games televised. And even with a growth in those occurrences it’s rarer still the games are broadcast beyond the city or the region of the game. But tonight at Norcross both will happen for the defending Class AAAAAA Blue Devils and South Gwinnett. The two teams will face off against Florida powers in games televised nationally by ESPN.

South plays Lincoln (Fla.) at 3:30 p.m. and Norcross headlines the night with a showdown against Booker T. Washington (Fla.) at 7 p.m. The doubleheader is part of ESPN’s three-day, 13-game televised schedule of high school games this weekend.

But these bright lights come Week 1 when teams still have the offseason and new starters and all the other changes since last winter to overcome.

“We want to go out and want to play our A game,” Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. “I know it’s going to be tough playing our A game off the bat. We’d like to go out and put out a good showing. The goal is to win the game, but the ultimate goal is a region title and a playoff run.”

And that’s just one line to straddle.

Maloof and South head coach John Small each admit a showcase, nationally televised game gives their teams and staffs and fans an experience the majority never get. It’s unique and should be enjoyed, yet for successful football requires focus and work, not staring at the glitz and hoopla.

“Hopefully we stay grounded and let the fans and community enjoy the night and let us stay focused on the game,” Maloof said.

“They know when the lights come on and the whistle blows it’s time to go,” Small said. “Our kids do a good job of knowing when to turn it on and when to turn it off. The only way you really enjoy the whole moment of it is to go out there and play on TV and win the ball game.

“What matters is what happens between the lines and at the end of the night, did you win or did you lose.”

On the field, South faces a Lincoln team from the Tallahassee area that Small said is atypical from what people expect from Florida football.

“They are not going to spread you out,” he said. “They are going to try to pound it down your throat. They are a physical football team.”

Booker T. Washington, nationally ranked entering this season and like its opponent, Norcross, is defending a state championship, plays the spread game. Maloof said there is no one player to contain on a team with a handful of speed receivers.

“Usually teams have one, maybe two (speed players),” Maloof said. “These guys have five on the field at the same time that have a lot of speed.”

But if there wasn’t talent, there’d be no cameras, no play-by-play, no national broadcasts. There’d be no buzz in the halls at both South and Norcross. Maloof said the anticipation for today began the first day of classes.

“The student body is extremely excited,” Maloof said. “I am excited for them, that they get to be on national TV also. I think it’s a great event.”

There’s no need for the fans to temper their excitement. Unlike coaches and players, no straddling is required, no enthusiasm discouraged.

“It’s good for our community,” Maloof said. “It allows Norcross and Peachtree Corners to come and support these young men as they are out there fighting and playing for their school.

“South Gwinnett and Norcross have to show out. We have to do the best we can.”