0

Improved Collins Hill defense awaits Norcross' running game, Boyd

Collins Hill quarterback Tyler Herman (4) drops back to pass the ball during last week’s game against Peachtree Ridge. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

Collins Hill quarterback Tyler Herman (4) drops back to pass the ball during last week’s game against Peachtree Ridge. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

At least one positive happened for Collins Hill since last year’s matchup with Norcross.

Alvin Kamara graduated.

The Blue Devils running back, now a freshman at Alabama, was the catalyst for the past two Norcross wins over Collins Hill. It included a 23-carry, 300-yard night last season in a 35-23 victory.

“The first time (Kamara) touched it last year he went 80 yards and the second time he touched it he went 66,” Collins Hill head coach Kevin Reach said. “The third time he only went 12 and we were like, ‘All right!’”

Collins Hill won’t have to slow down Kamara Friday night, but it will have to contend with virtually the same offensive line that paved those running lanes last season. That unit has played well in recent weeks, while Kamara’s replacement also has been productive.

Josh Boyd rushed 10 times for 124 yards and a pair of scores in last week’s rout of Habersham Central. He now has 635 rushing yards and eight touchdowns this season on only 83 carries.

“(Boyd’s) really running in between the tackles better than I thought,” Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. “I thought he’d be a guy we’d want to get out in space to make plays. But he’s really run well between the tackles. We haven’t really had to change a lot because Alvin ran well between the tackles, too.”

Norcross (4-2, 3-1 Region 7-AAAAAA) doesn’t lack for playmakers elsewhere, either, even as Myles Autry slowly returns to form from a knee injury. Quarterback A.J. Bush has gotten better weekly, while Clinton Lynch (20 catches, 321 yards, three touchdowns) and Christopher Herndon (16 catches, 289 yards, two TDs) have been his top targets.

They will go up against the improved defense of region co-leader Collins Hill (5-0, 3-0), which got big games last Friday from Jordan Bertrand (13 tackles), Joseph Park (13 tackles), Ben Yarn (six tackles, two quarterback hurries) and Miles Fox (six tackles, two for losses, two quarterback hurries).

“I think we’re better defensively,” Reach said. “Top to bottom, from secondary to linebackers to defensive line, we’re better than last year. We’re really flying around to the ball.”

The Eagles are coming off an emotional 35-28 victory over rival Peachtree Ridge, thanks to a late rally. Tyler Herman led the way with a school-record, 426-yard passing game along with four touchdowns.

Grant McDonald (five catches, 139 yards, TD), Quinton Jones (4-71, TD) and Dwayne Smith (2-107, TD) were his top receivers.

“We enjoyed it Friday night and Saturday, but come Sunday it was time to get back to work and prepare for Norcross,” Reach said. “That game is gone and this game is a big one.”

The victor also puts itself in a great position for the playoffs out of difficult 7-AAAAAA. Collins Hill shares the region lead with North, while Norcross and Peachtree Ridge are a game back. Mill Creek, with two region losses, also expects to factor into the playoff chase.

Norcross and Collins Hill have played some close games in recent seasons, but the Blue Devils have won most of them. A 42-0 Eagles win in 2010 is Collins Hill’s only victory in the past seven meetings with Norcross.

“We’ve had some great games with (Collins Hill), some of them came down to overtimes, and two years ago we came back and won,” Maloof said. “There have been some great games. We’ve just been fortunate to come out on top of late. That doesn’t mean that’s what is going to happen this week, though. This is a different year and we have to play well.”

COLLINS HILL AT NORCROSS

Collins Hill Eagles (7-AAAAAA)

Coach: Kevin Reach

Record: 5-0, 3-0 region

Last week: Beat Peachtree Ridge 35-28

Norcross Blue Devils (7-AAAAAA)

Coach: Keith Maloof

Record: 4-2, 3-1 region

Last week: Beat Habersham Central 49-3

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Norcross won 35-23 last year

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.