Norcross Warren McWilliams (34) and Brandon Garner (27) tackle Lowndes’ Eric Hart (6) during last weekend’s game. (Photo: Craig Cappy)
Colquitt County and Norcross need no introduction.
The two Class AAAAAA state powers are very familiar with each other.
They began last season and this year with pre-season scrimmages, which Norcross won.
They also met in last year’s state semifinals with Norcross winning on the way to the state championship.
The two schools separated by 220 miles meet again tonight in the state semifinals. The winner will face the McEachern-North Gwinnett winner in next Saturday’s state finals at the Georgia Dome.
“We know what we’ve got,” Colquitt County head coach Rush Propst said. “They are the team to beat, they are the best team, there is no doubt about it. I’ve said that from Day 1, but I think we are right there with them.”
Colquitt (11-2) is in the semifinals for the fifth-straight season, which is a Georgia record in the highest classification.
The Packers reached the state finals in 2010 and lost to Brookwood, they were knocked out of the 2011 semis by Grayson and lost to Norcross last year 41-27.
“It’s a hump game and it’s a big game,” Propst said.
Colquitt has had its way with teams through the first three rounds of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs. The Packers have won by an average of 34 points in the postseason.
It should make for an interesting matchup against Norcross’ (11-2) defense, which has allowed just 16 in three playoff games.
“We’re used to playing high-powered offenses with North Gwinnett, Collins Hill, Mill Creek and Peachtree Ridge,” Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. “All of those guys are averaging 40 and 50 points. It’s all about taking advantage of opportunities. We have to limit our mistakes and play like we’re capable of playing.”
The Packers had a 21-0 first quarter lead over Dacula last week before winning 42-17. Quarterback Daniel Mobley threw for 255 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions on a sprained ankle.
“He spreads the ball around to all these people, so we have to defend the whole field,” Maloof said.
Mobley was injured last season and played sparingly in the Norcross game, completing 6 of 10 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown.
This season, sophomore Kiel Pollard has been his top receiver with 44 catches for 773 yards and seven TDs. Sihiem King, Javonta Woods and Todd Boyd are also among the team leaders in receptions and yards.
King is the team’s leading rusher with 1,392 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“They like to spread it out, so it will be a little different from the last two games we’ve had,” Norcross linebacker Warren McWilliams said. “We just feel like if we get after it on the front seven end, the DBs will take care of the passing game.”
Norcross has face predominately running teams the last two games, holding Brookwood and Lowndes to 185 and 160 yards of total offense, respectively.
“Offensively, they were really good last year and scored a lot of points. This year they are the same,” Maloof said.
The biggest difference in Colquitt is its defense. The Packers have a new defensive coordinator and are allowing 12 points a game. That’s an improvement from the 20 points a game last year.
“They are a lot better on defense,” Maloof said. “They’ve changed defensive coordinators and they are playing really good on defense and that’s the difference.”
Norcross’ offense is averaging 29 points a game this year. The Blue Devils beat Lowndes last week 28-7 and forced five turnovers. The offense is led by running back Josh Boyd’s 1,414 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns.
Quarterback A.J. Bush has thrown for 1,728 yards and 13 TDs and rushed for 654 yards and 12 scores.
Clinton Lynch leads the team in catches (41) and yards (774), while Miami commitment Chris Herndon and Myles Autry have also been factors in the passing game.
Colquitt County’s only two losses this season were to Alabama power Hoover and Region 1 champion Camden County.
After starting the year 1-2, Norcross has won 10-straight games to win the Region 7-AAAAAA championship again.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” Maloof said. “This team has done a great job getting back after what happened to us early in the year being embarrassed. They have focused on one game at a time and beating some quality opponents.”
COLQUITT COUNTY at NORCROSS
Colquitt County Packers (1-AAAAAA)
Coach: Rush Propst
Last week: Beat Dacula 42-17
Norcross Blue Devils (7-AAAAAA)
Coach: Keith Maloof
Last week: Beat Lowndes 28-7
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Norcross won 41-27 in last year’s semifinals
Directions to Norcross High School: From I-85, go west on Beaver Ruin Road to Buford Highway and turn right. At the next light, turn left on Langford Drive. Cross Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and turn left on Spalding Drive. School is on the left