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Former state champs Brookwood, Norcross meet in second round

Brookwood’s Jesse Brown (48) runs the ball during the game against South Gwinnett earlier this season. (Photo: Craig Cappy)

Brookwood’s Jesse Brown (48) runs the ball during the game against South Gwinnett earlier this season. (Photo: Craig Cappy)

Brookwood will travel to Norcross Friday for the second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs, but it will really feel like the third round for the Broncos.

Brookwood had to win its final game of the regular season just to get into the postseason.

“I think it’s been that way the last several weeks,” Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said.

The Broncos defeated last year’s Region 8-AAAAAA champion Grayson in the regular season finale to earn a trip to the playoffs for the 12th straight year.

They beat Lambert 35-16 in the first round of the playoffs last week and now get the defending state champions Friday.

“Obviously, they are very talented bunch,” Crews said. “They have athletic kids at every position.”

Brookwood and Norcross are two of the state’s last three state champions in the highest classification. The last time the schools played was in 2010 in the state playoffs on the way to Brookwood winning the state title. Norcross won state in 2012.

“We’re not as athletic as we were in 2010, but our kids are coming along and playing as a team,” Crews said.

Norcross has nine players committed to Division I colleges and will likely have at least 15 sign. Brookwood has no players committed and only a few seniors will play in college.

“They are good. They’ve won six of their last eight games,” Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. “They had (Region 8 champion) Archer beat. We’re not taking anybody lightly. You can throw out records at this time of the year.”

The winner will play the Lovejoy-Lowndes winner in the third round. Norcross defeated Lovejoy in the state championship game last season.

Brookwood used an overtime field goal to beat Grayson and last week trailed 10-0 before rallying to win 35-16 over Lambert. The Broncos had five turnovers in the wet weather.

Running back Jesse Brown had 234 yards and four touchdowns. He had three TD runs for more than 50 yards.

“He’s done an outstanding job to be just a sophomore,” Maloof said. “He looks like a veteran on film.”

Griffen Perkins graded 89 percent on blocking assignments, Mike Allen made two catches for 40 yards and a score, while Joey McLane threw for 96 yards and a TD.

“You have to be able to play keep away a little bit,” Crews said. “You give them too many opportunities on offense and eventually they will score. That’s a tall order against those cats on defense.”

Norcross defeated Etowah last week 28-0, shutting out the Eagles for the first time since 2005.

Norcross held Etowah to 83 yards rushing and 136 yards of total offense.

The unit intercepted four passes, including two by Ridwan Issahaku, one by Jordan Noil returned for a touchdown and one by Brandon Garner.

The group has six interceptions in the last two games.

“They are getting better each week,” Maloof said. “Now they have to continue to do that every week.”

Norcross was tied 0-0 at halftime against Etowah before pulling away in the second half.

Quarterback A.J. Bush rushed for 94 yards and one TD and threw for 70 yards and a score. Clinton Lynch is the top receiver with 37 catches for 698 yards.

“We drove the ball down the field, but we had four drops which is not like us and three critical penalties,” Maloof said. “In the second half was the way we’re supposed to play.”

Brookwood Broncos (8-AAAAAA)

Coach: Mark Crews

Record: 6-5

Last week: Beat Lambert 35-16

Norcross Blue Devils (7-AAAAAA)

Coach: Keith Maloof

Record: 9-2

Last week: Beat Etowah 28-0

Last meeting: Brookwood won 34-24 in 2010 playoffs

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

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