BUFORD — With a logjam atop the Region 7-AAAAAA standings between Collins Hill, Norcross and North Gwinnett, it was crucial for the Bulldogs to go on the road and take care of business versus the Mountain View Bears on Friday night.
“We just wanted to get our mojo back,” said North head coach Bob Sphire. “We were really angry all week and wanted to come out and have a good game.”
The Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1) did just that by holding their own, scoring six offensive touchdowns, creating four turnovers and thumping the Bears (2-7, 2-5) 40-7.
North got off to a great start behind senior tailback C.J. Leggett. After being held to seven yards on the first series of the game, Leggett broke free for a 44-yard touchdown run during the third drive, making it 13-0 late in the first quarter. He wasn’t done there, scoring his second TD of the quarter on a wildcat keeper from five yards out, extending the lead to 20-0 after one period of play.
While Leggett was running through holes created by the offensive line, quarterback John Urzua was making his first career start for the injured Hayden Sphire. Urzua had big shoes to fill, as Sphire went into Friday night’s game as the leading passer in the county with 1,649 yards and 25 TDs.
Urzua looked unfazed in his first few drives, connecting with Almonzo Brown on the second drive of the game for a 56-yard strike down the left sideline. After the TD pass, Urzua settled right into the game, connecting on his next five passes for 70 yards. He finished the first half 7-of-9 for 135 yards and one TD.
“It was a big loss,” Urzua said about Sphire getting hurt. “But I felt like I had a great week a practice and had great back up all game.”
Despite the success of Urzua at the QB position, as he finished his first career start 11-for-13 with 170 yards and two TD passes, the night belonged to Leggett. Leggett ran for 191 yards on 13 carries and two scores from the ground. He added one catch for a two-yard TD reception.
“I knew I needed to carry the load this week with Hayden (Sphire) out,” said Leggett. “I knew the team was going to lean on me so I had to deliver. It was good for us to come out here and win, especially after last week.”
While the offense was giving the Bears all they could handle, the Bulldogs’ defense was relentless. North forced four turnovers, holding Mountain View to seven first downs and seven points. Its lone lapse of the game came in the fourth quarter as it let Kielan Whitner loose on a screen pass and he scampered for a 44-yard score.
The junior receiver Whitner had a big game, snagging five balls for a game-high 109 yards. He outshined Brown, as the Bulldog receiver finished the contest with four catches for 101 yards on the evening.
However, it was not enough for the Bears as they dropped the contest, while North Gwinnett is still in line to win the region title with another victory next week and a loss from Collins Hill.
“We have a chance to win the region and win a game for our seniors against Peachtree Ridge next week, so we are really excited about the chance,” said Urzua.
NORTH GWINNETT 40, MOUNTAIN VIEW 7
North Gwinnett 20 13 7 0 — 40
Mountain View 0 0 0 7 — 7
North Gwinnett: Almonzo Brown 56 pass from John Urzua (kick failed) 6:37
North: C.J. Leggett 44 run (Michael D’Angola kick) 3:48
North: Leggett 5 run (D’Angola kick) :36
North: Brown 12 pass from Urzua (D’Angola kick) 9:04
North: Leggett 2 pass from Grayson Fowler (conversion fail) :52
North: Nate Brown 25 pass from Urzua (D’Angola kick) 7:44
Mountain View: Kielan Whitner 44 from Alex Scott (Jeff Hollingsworth kick) 5:38