North Gwinnett’s Josh Imatorbhebhe (7) runs down the sideline after catching a hook and lateral pass to take the lead of the 2014 Metro PCS Corky Kell Classic game against the McEachern Indians on Saturday at Walter H Cantrell Stadium at McEachern High School in Powder Springs. (Staff Photo: David Welker)
Corky Kell Classic
Scenes from the 2014 Corky Kell Classic held Aug. 24 at McEachern High School.
POWDER SPRINGS — After nearly three and a half hours, 1,046 combined yards of total offense and 101 points, Saturday’s finale of the 2014 Corky Kell Classic finally came to an end.
And with the way the shootout between No. 4 state-ranked North Gwinnett and top-ranked McEachern was going, there were no foregone conclusions, even with the host Indians 63 yards away and just four seconds remaining.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they were good to the last snap as Bailey Hockman’s desperation heave fell harmlessly to the turf, allowing North to endure for a 52-49 win in a game that ended at 1:38 on Sunday morning.
The last of John Urzua’s 490 yards passing and his 38th completion of the night — a 9-yard touchdown to Kyler Knudsen with 9 seconds left — proved to be the difference in a game that featured seven lead changes and yards and scores that came seemingly at will.
“This game was just exactly like the five weeks in the (Class AAAAAA state) playoffs last year,” an exhausted, but happy North coach Bob Sphire said. “We had so many games that came down to the wire. We had so many games where our kids could’ve rolled over, felt sorry for themselves, pointed fingers or maybe even gotten distracted, but there was never any panic on the sideline.”
After a safety and a pair of TD pass from Urzua to Daniel Imatorbhebhe left North (1-0) with its biggest lead of the game at 38-28 with 1:07 in the third quarter, it looked like the Bulldogs might be taking control of the game.
It looked even more that way when North forced a McEachern punt and took over with the two-score lead with 10:53 to play.
But after the Bulldogs moved as deep as the McEachern 42, an interception by Tyler Woodley gave the Indians new life.
And Bailey Hockman, who threw for 302 yards and four TDs on the evening, capitalized, finding Tyler Smith along the right sideline for a 72-yard scoring strike that cut the North lead to 38-35 with 9:01 left.
After a three-and-out, Hockman struck for another home run, this time catching T.J. Rahming in stride up the middle for a 74-yard TD that sudden thrust McEachern back into the lead at 42-38 with 7:27 left.
The two teams then traded scores again to leave the Indians’ lead at 45-42, and it looked like they might be able to run out the clock.
But an incomplete pass on third down forced a punt, giving the Bulldogs one last chance at their own 32-yard line with 1:48 left and no timeouts.
Aided by a roughing the passer penalty and five completions, the last a13-yard hook-up from Urzua to Almonzo Brown, the Bulldogs had the ball on the McEachern 9 with the clock ticking.
Urzua then threaded the needle to find Knudsen in the middle of the field around the 3, and the senior stretched to reach the end zone with just nine seconds on the clock to put North back in front at 52-49. It was Urzua’s seventh TD pass of the night.
Still, the game wasn’t done until Hockman’s Hail Mary attempt fell out of reach of the pack deep in the secondary as the clock expired that the Bulldogs could celebrate. Among Urzua’s favorite targets on the night were the Imatorbhebhe brothers, with Daniel catching 10 passes for 73 yards two scores and Josh adding eight grabs for 173 yards and three TDs, while Knudsen finished with eight catches for 132 yards and the TD.
Rahming led McEachern with five catches for 175 yards and two TDs, while Smith added five more for 121 yards and two scores. Griffin ran for 138 yards and three TDs, but left the game with a knee injury late in the fourth quarter.
North’s chip shot on the opening kickoff, which McEachern recovered on its own 36 after a mad scramble, was a clue of what was to come in the first half.
The Indians then methodically marched down the field, covering the the 64 yards in 15 plays and draining 5:15 off the clock.
One touchdown run by Griffin was negated by a penalty, but the call was merely delaying the inevitable as the Oregon-bound speedster dashed around the left end for a 15-yard score that put McEachern up 7-0 with 6:45 left in he first quarter.
It took North’s aerial assault just 1:10 to respond as Urzua hit 3 of 4 passes for 60 yards, including the final 18 to Josh Imatorbhebhe to pulled the Bulldogs even at 7-all at the 5:35 mark.
McEachern answered right back, and after Smith’s 55-yard keeper set his team up deep in North territory, Griffin was at it again, weaving his way through the Bulldogs defense for another 15-yard TD to put the Indians back in front at 14-7 with 4:29 left in the opening frame.
It looked like McEachern had seized momentum when its defense force a North punt, and the offense turned it into Griffin’s third touchdown of the quarter, this one from 25 yards out, to extend the lead to 21-7 with 1:29 still left in the quarter.
But from there, Urzua began to begin slowly chipping away at the Indians’ secondary.
A drive that spanned the first and second quarters went 65 yards in seven plays, with Urzua hitting Almozo Brown for a 5-yard score on this and goal to bring the Bulldogs to within 21-15 after Andy Summers’ two-point pass to Harold Johnson with 10:38 left in the first time.
Then, it was the North defense’s turn to keep McEachern from holding serve by forcing the Indians into their first punt of the game.
Then after another service break from the North defense, Urzua was able to cash it in, with the help of a little razzle dazzle late in the half.
On fourth and 21 from the McEachern 40 with 15 seconds left in the half, the senior hit Kyler Knudsen 15 yards down the field well short of the first down.
But the senior receiver flipped behind him on the hook-and-lateral, which Josh Imatorbhebhe grabbed and sped the final 25 yards for the score with six seconds left that stunned the home crowd and sent the Bulldogs into intermission with a 22-21 lead.
North Gwinnett 52, McEachern 49
North Gwinnett 7 15 16 14 ― 52
McEachern 21 0 7 21 ― 49
McEachern: Taj Griffin 11 run (Cesar Dominguez kick), 6:45
North: Josh Imatorbhebhe 18 pass from John Urzua (Brad Harvey kick), 5:35
McEachern: Griffin 15 run (Dominquez kick), 4:29
McEachern: Griffin 25 run (), 1:52
North: Almonzo Brown 5 pass from Urzua (Harold Johnson pass from Andy Summers), 10:38
North: J. Imatorbhebhe 30 pass from Urzua (Harvey kick), 0:06
McEachern: T.J. Rahming 35 pass from Bailey Hockman (Dominguez kick), 10:34
North: Safety. Ball rolls out of end zone after fumble, 8:18
North: Daniel Imatorbhebhe 7 pass from Uruza (Harvey kick), 4:58
North: D. Imatorbhebhe 4 pass from Urzua (Harvey kick), 1:07
McEachern: Tyler Smith 72 pass from Hockman (Dominguez kick), 9:01
McEachern: Rahming 74 pass from Hockman (Dominguez kick), 6:38
North: J. Imatorbhebhe 29 pass from Urzua (Harvey kick), 5:14
McEachern: Smith 22 pass from Hockman (Dominguez kick), 3:38
North: Kyler Knudsen 9 pass from Urzua (Harvey kick), 0:09
First downs 33 20
Rushes-yards 37-86 32-168
Passing yards 490 302
Att.-Comp.-INT 38-49-1 11-27-1
Fumbles-lost 3-2 3-1
Penalties-yards 9-88 12-120
Rushing — North: Jordan Weddington 8-50, Kameron Pickett 12-25, Jordan Frye 8-13, Ayinde Russell 1-7. McEachern: Griffin 22-138, Smith 1-55, Michael Nwagbara 3-6, Rahming 1-(-5).
Passing — North: Urzua 38-48-1, 490; Ayinde Russell 0-1-0, 0. McEachern: Hockman 11-27-1, 302.
Receiving — North: D. Imatorbhebhe 10-73, J. Imatorbhebhe 8-173, Knudsen 8-132, Brown 4-36. McEachern: Rahming 5-175, Smith 5-121, Jeremiah Shaw 1-6.