Collins Hill’s Quentin Jones (11) catches a pass and scores a touchdown before North Gwinnett’s Bobby Young (12) can make the tackle during Friday night’s game at North Gwinnett. (Photo: Karl L. Moore)
SUWANEE — “I like our chances.”
When Kevin Reach repeated the short sentence when talking about his Eagles’ matchup with No. 1-ranked North Gwinnett earlier in the week the truth was in his tone. It wasn’t wishful or boastful; not bravado or cliché. The Collins Hill head football coach believed it.
“Just watching them on tape I felt like we just had to stay on track and play four quarters,” he said. “I felt just watching my team, that we could beat them. We just couldn’t be intimidated.”
Midway through the fourth quarter against the state’s No. 1-ranked North Gwinnett Bulldogs, the upset was complete. Even North succumbed, downing the ball in the final minute as Collins Hill completed the 53-28 upset.
“We just knocked off the No. 1 team in the state,” Collins Hill quarterback Tyler Herman said. “We’re pumped.”
The win over the unbeaten Bulldogs was more than just a vindication for an Eagles team climbing the ranks of Region 7-AAAAAA or in the state, it was validation of a promise made following their 28-0 loss to Norcross.
“The kids, they were mad, they were angry about the way they performed and they promised me that that would never happen again,” Reach said. “The last two weeks they have done that.”
Collins Hill jumped out to a 10-0 lead, kicking a field goal on its opening drive and following that with a 83-yard march highlighted by a 56-yard run by Herman. Herman capped the drive with a 26-yard touchdown to Quentin Jones, who took a short pass and whipped around the left edge and down the sideline. It was the first of three touchdowns thrown by the senior, who completed 20 of 35 for 239 yards passing.
North answered on its next drive with Hayden Sphire turning to Caleb Scott. Sphire hit Scott four times on the drive including the 3-yard touchdown completion. Scott’s biggest reception on the drive was 31-yard grab that took the drive across midfield. It was just the start of a monster game for Scott, who led all wide-outs with 12 receptions for 187 yards.
After the score and two-point conversion, Collins Hill answered. The Eagles marched 79 yards on nine plays scoring on a 19-yard touchdown run up the middle by Tyler Henderson. Henderson pounded his way to 111 yards on 22 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
A Collins Hill sack, its second of the game, forced a North three-and-out and gave the Eagles the ball near midfield. On third-and-6 from the North 49, the Bulldogs nearly sacked Herman, but the senior escaped and, scrambling, found Rhyan England wide open down the sideline and England sprinted for the touchdown.
“I still don’t know what happened,” Herman said. “All I know is I had two guys crashing in on me and I just did what I had to do to put us in a position.”
Sphire hit Nate Brown for an 80-yard touchdown two plays later, but injured his ankle on the play that brought North to within 24-15 at the half.
Sphire never returned, leaving the game to backup John Urzua. The junior Urzua, supported by North’s stable of offensive weapons, sparked the comeback.
The Bulldogs opened the second half in Collins Hill territory after Nate Brown returned the ball to the Eagles’ 31. The drive stalled and North settled for a 36-yard field goal, one of two forced by the Collins Hill defense in the second half. The Bulldogs took a 25-24 lead on its next possession when C.J. Leggett pounded his way through the Collins Hill defense for a 28-yard touchdown run. Leggett led North with 89 yards rushing on 18 carries.
The Eagles answered back with 10-play drive engineered by Herman ended with he found Jones again, this time from 16 yards out.
North settled for another field goal and against Collins Hill answered with a touchdown, this one a 12-yard run by Herman.
Collins Hill stayed aggressive in the final quarter adding two more touchdowns and continuing to pressure North on offense and defense.
“We were going to be aggressive,” Reach said. “We weren’t going to try to milk like clock. We were going to stay aggressive. They could score at any time.
“That was probably one of the biggest wins we’ve ever had.”
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Collins Hill vs. North Gwinnett Featured on SportsCenter Top 10
ESPN's SportsCenter featured Collins Hill's Rhyan England fielding the opening kick before getting hit hard by North Gwinnett's Ben Carswell during the Top 10 feature of the show.