505 total votes.
As I was I leaving Norcross’ soaking wet field on Friday, I was approached by several of their fans. They all phrased the same question different ways?
‘Who do you have winning the state finals?’
It kind of caught me off guard. For the past four weeks when it came to picking the winners in the playoff games, it was easy to just pick Gwinnett.
Now with Norcross and North Gwinnett meeting in the Class AAAAAA state championship on Saturday, it has me asking myself ‘Who do I pick?’
If you are a regular reader of The Blitz you might remember I said an all-Gwinnett final was my dream matchup at the start of the playoffs. I was even hoping for an all-Region 7 final.
So to get two teams from Gwinnett in the state championship game and to ask me to pick one is liking asking a parent to pick their favorite child.
It’s hard to do. There’s things I like and dislike about each team. Here’s a few of them.
For North Gwinnett:
• I like North’s strength of schedule, beating Camden County, Grayson and Norcross (three of the last four state champs) to start the year is pretty impressive. They also have a win over Region 8 champion Archer.
• I like North’s resolve to find ways to win. Mill Creek, Archer and Hillgrove games come to mind.
• I don’t like that North gave up 100 points in three games during the middle of the season or that the Bulldogs have allowed 84 points in the last three playoff games.
• I don’t like that North quarterback Hayden Sphire has been playing injured the last few games. While the Bulldogs have a capable backup, if Sphire goes down again that could change things.
• I like that Norcross is the defending state champs and is on an 11-game winning streak. When you have that much success it builds a lot of confidence.
• I like Norcross’ lights-out defense right now. I haven’t seen a team move the ball on the Blue Devils successfully the last three weeks.
• I don’t like Norcross’ early game struggles on offense. The Blue Devils seem to have a hard time moving the ball to start games.
• I don’t like Norcross’ amount of penalties. They always seem to have a call go against them at the wrong time.
So who do I have in Saturday’s state championship game? I really wish the Georgia High School Association didn’t get rid of ties in state championship games. That would be my easy way out. But I’m going to make this prediction. Norcross 21, North Gwinnett 17
All-Gwinnett final again
There are some fans who think Saturday’s Norcross vs. North Gwinnett final is the greatest ever in Gwinnett. I’m not convinced of that.
I still think the 2002 finals when Gwinnett had four teams in two games is the greatest. Parkview beat Brookwood in the Class AAAAA game, while Buford beat Greater Atlanta Christian in the Class AA game.
Both of those games were rematches from the regular season with the same team winning both times.
The only thing that makes the North-Norcross game different is the fact they tied for the region title.
Archer could be in finals
Archer fans have to be wondering if they would have been in the finals if it weren’t for a last-second field goal by North Gwinnett.
I remember when this game popped up, I thought the winner had a shot to reach the state finals and I mentioned it in The Blitz.
Even though Archer didn’t make it out of the second round, I think they can make a good case for being a top-five team this season.
Rematch game goes in North’s favor
It’s not often that two teams will play each other twice in the same season.
But when it does, North has been on the winning side. The Bulldogs are 3-0 in rematch games in the same year.
North defeated Brookwood and Walton twice to reach the 2007 state finals. The next year the Bulldogs beat Brookwood twice again.
Buford gives brief scare
Was anyone else surprised to see Buford trailing 14-7 at halftime last week? I was. It was the first time Buford was behind at the half all year.
Order was restored in the second half as the Wolves went on to win 24-14.
Buford rolled through the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs. The last two games have been a little more interesting for the Wolves.
The Carver-Columbus game was closer than the 36-6 score, while last week’s 24-14 win over Callaway was the smallest margin of victory all year.
Corky Kell teams to be announced
I’m expecting the teams and matchups for the Corky Kell Classic will be announced this week like they have in previous years.
Brookwood and McEachern are the original members and have earned bids to play in the 23rd edition.
I would imagine that Norcross will return to the event after not playing in it the last four years. North Gwinnett also seems like another no-brainer. I think there will be one more Gwinnett school and it probably be someone like Mill Creek, Archer or Collins Hill. All three have never played in the Corky Kell, but deserve a shot in mind.
Mill Creek is the largest school in the state, so that should bode well for ticket sales. They’ve also reached two of the last four quarterfinals. Archer is one of the state’s rising programs and is the defending Region 8 champions. Collins Hill has been to the playoffs the last six years in a row.