North Gwinnett’s Matthew Andryusky (37) and Jacob McCoy (25) celebrate a fumble recovery made by Harrison Olvey (33) against Grayson during week one of high school football action in Loganville Friday. North Gwinnett defeated Grayson 35-0. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
LOGANVILLE — North Gwinnett’s offense couldn’t find much of a rhythm on Friday night.
That was OK, the defense picked up the slack.
The Bulldogs’ defense accounted for 18 points as No. 2-ranked North defeated Grayson 35-0.
“I’ll take that any time,” North head coach Bob Sphire said with a smile.
North had a pair of safeties, an interception returned for a touchdown and a fumble for a score to improve to 2-0 on the season.
“We just executed,” North Gwinnett linebacker Carter Cross said. “Coach Andrews had us coached up.”
The Bulldogs’ defense forced eight turnovers and was guided by first-year defensive coordinator Robert Andrews, who held the same spot at Grayson for eight years.
“I think what really helped us was playing the wing-T last week against Camden,” Cross said.
It’s the first time Grayson has started the year 0-2 since 2006. The Rams are riding a three-game losing streak dating back to last season. The 35-point defeat is the largest in Grayson’s 14-year history and it’s the first time the Rams have been shut out since 2010.
Four of Grayson’s first five possessions resulted in turnovers. It had a safety, interception for a touchdown, turnover on downs and a fumble. That put the Rams in an early 16-0 hole. It didn’t get much better in the second half with a safety, two fumbles and a turnover on downs.
North’s Avery Elford tackled Grayson running back Aares McCall for a safety to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. North took control of the game on the ensuing possession when Nate Brown caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Sphire with 5:41 left in the first quarter. Sphire was 14 of 27 for 136 yards. Daniel Imatorbhebebe was his leading receiver with five catches for 59 yards.
The Bulldogs’ Jaye Stackhouse intercepted Hunter Schuessler and returned it 53 yards for a score. It was the second week Schuessler, who was sacked two times, threw an interception for a score. Schuessler was 4 of 8 for 57 yards.
North’s Bobby Young recovered a McCall fumble and the Bulldogs drove 55 yards to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Michael D’Angola to go up 19-0 at the half.
Wesley Edwards scored on a one-yard run to put North ahead 26-0 in the third quarter. Then the defense went back to scoring points. Noah Lyman had a 13-yard tackle for loss and then got a safety on the next play to put North up 28-0. Lyman also had a sack of Schuessler along with Cross.
On Grayson’s next possession, Dante Sawyer forced a fumble that Jacob McCoy recovered for a score with 5:31 left in the third quarter. That put North up 35-0 and forced a mercy rule running clock in the fourth quarter.
Even North’s second-team defense was able to make some noise with Harrison Olvey recovering a fumble.
Grayson was the 2011 state champion and returns just one starter from last year’s team that lost to North Gwinnett in the second round of the playoffs.
The schedule doesn’t get much easier for the Rams. They are off next week and then open Region 8 play against Parkview, which defeated Grayson last season.
North Gwinnett has a bye next week and then will play at defending state champion Norcross to open Region 7-AAAAAA play.
“Now is what really matters,” Sphire said. “This was an extension of our preseason.”
NORTH GWINNETT 35, GRAYSON 0
North Gwinnett 16 3 16 0 — 35
Grayson 0 0 0 0 — 0
North Gwinnett: Avery Elford safety, 6:25
North Gwinnett: Nate Brown 28 pass from Hayden Sphire (Michael D’Angola kick) 5:48
North Gwinnett: Jaye Stackhouse 53 interception (D’Angola kick) 5:25
North Gwinnett: D’Angola 37 FG, 5:29
North Gwinnett: Wesley Edwards 1 run (D’Angola kick) 7:52
North Gwinnett: Noah Lyman safety, 7:05
North Gwinnett: Jacob McCoy 7 fumble return (D’Angola kick) 5:31
North — Grayson
First downs 6 — 8
Rushes-yards 11-10 — 45-44
Comp-Att-Int 14-30-0 — 4-8-1
Passing yards 136 — 57
Penalties-yards 5-50 — 7-68
Fumbles-lost 2-1 — 4-3
RUSHING — North Gwinnett: C.J. Leggett 4-10; Wesley Edwards 5-0. Grayson: Aares McCall 14-43; Mohamed Berry 1-(-1); Hunter Schuessler 8-(-30); A.J. Stinson 4-(-21); Cameryn Brent 12-45; Earnest Tiller 2-1; Kiminzki Flint (4-7).
PASSING — North Gwinnett: Hayden Sphire 14-27-0, 136; Torron Murray 0-3-0. Grayson: Hunter Schuessler 4-8-1, 57.
RECEIVING — North Gwinnett: Daniel Imatorbhebebe 5-59; Nate Brown 3-32; Wesley Edwards 1-0; C.J. Leggett 1-(-5); Caleb Scott 2-35; Almonzo Brown 1-7; Josh Imatorbhebebe 1-2; Dakari White 1-6. Grayson: A.J. Stinson 2-26; Cedric Asseh 1-16; Aares McCall 1-18.