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HAMMOCK: Norcross football team aims to rebound from shocking loss

Norcross tailback Josh Boyd (3) is stopped by Booker T. Washington’s Rashard Frye (23) while returning a kick during Saturday’s game. (Photo: Lily McGregor)

Norcross tailback Josh Boyd (3) is stopped by Booker T. Washington’s Rashard Frye (23) while returning a kick during Saturday’s game. (Photo: Lily McGregor)

This will go one way or the other.

Either Norcross’ football team will let the lingering effects of a season-opening blowout loss hurt the rest of the season, or the Blue Devils will use the stunning 55-0 loss to the nation’s No. 1 team on an ESPN national broadcast as the ultimate motivation.

Head coach Keith Maloof and his staff are hopeful of the latter.

“That’s what we better do,” Maloof said Wednesday. “We got our nose bloodied. How do we handle it? This is the first failure these guys have had in 17 outings. We won our scrimmage at Colquitt (County) last year, won all 15 games last year and won our scrimmage against Colquitt this year.

“It’s something we haven’t felt in awhile so we have to regroup. We’ve had a great week of practice so far.”

Rarely have I fielded so many questions about a season-opening, high school football game as I have in the last few days regarding Norcross.

Coaches, fans and even non-football fans who happened to notice the game on ESPN have wondered, “What happened to Norcross?”

It was certainly a shocking result that few saw coming, not after Norcross returned the bulk of its unbeaten, Class AAAAAA state championship team from last season. But Booker T. Washington (Fla.), is the nation’s No. 1 team in the USA Today poll, Norcross is inexperienced in some key spots and three turnovers fueled a score that spun out of control.

Rarely has a local high school football team gone from such a high in its last game — a win over Lovejoy in the Georgia Dome in last year’s state finals — to such a low in its next.

“The only thing we can do is fix the things that happened, and all the things that happened can be fixed,” Maloof said. “We have to fix the turnovers. That’s something we didn’t do last year and we did it last week.”

Those awaiting Norcross’ response to the loss will have to wait.

The Blue Devils have a bye this Friday before a Sept. 6 game at Parkview. They host North Gwinnett Sept. 13 in a matchup of the region’s two main, perennial powers the following week.

The season-opening loss surely hurt the team’s ego, but that is reparable. What it didn’t hurt was a season full of goals.

Sure, an undefeated record and a national ranking aren’t going to happen. A region championship is still possible, though. So is a state championship.

Has a Georgia high school team ever lost a game by such a lopsided score and gone on to win state? Probably not. That said, this Norcross team is still ultra-talented and has all the tools — it returned 10 offensive starters and six defensive starters from its first-ever state title team — to win championships this season.

“We’ll be fine,” Maloof said. “We have to keep working toward our goals.”

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.