After outlasting one high-scoring Cobb County powerhouse in last week’s Corky Kell Classic, North Gwinnett faces another one when North Cobb comes to Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium Friday night for a 7:30 kickoff.
However, the challenge the Bulldogs (1-0, No. 2 in this weeks Georgia Sports Writers Association Class AAAAAA rankings) will be a distinctly different one from what they faced in their 52-49 win at No. 5 McEachern last Saturday.
True, the Warriors (0-1 after last week’s loss to AAAAA powerhouse Northside-Warner Robins), present a similar challenge through the air.
North Cobb quarterback Shane Queen is certainly capable of putting the ball in the air after throwing for 1,973 yards and 21 TDs a last season, and he has a variety of targets to choose from, including seniors Devin Granville, Deon Dodd and Jordan McCray.
However, the 6-foot-2, 229-pound senior presents an additional challenge, namely being productive with his legs (427 yards, 9 TDs rushing last year) as well as with his arm.
“He can really hurt you running the football,” North coach Bob Sphire said of the Auburn-committment. “The quarterback run is definitely on the table this week. It adds a whole (new) element.
“He’s a big, physical kid. … More than anything, he can keep you off balance throwing the ball. You don’t want him to get comfortable and get into a rhythm.”
By the same token, North Cobb’s defense will throw a different look at the Bulldogs’ offense compared to McEachern.
While the Indians’ trademark was their size and strength up front, the Warriors rely more on its quickness and athleticism on getting off blocks from the likes of defensive end Scotty Cartledge and linebacker Chandler Wooten.
So Sphire knows his offense will have to develop its plays quickly and linemen must be ready to make the adjustments.
“They have a lot of 6-3, 215-pound guys up front who are fast and explosive,” Sphire said. “They use a lot of movement up front with their slants, and they’re more of a pressure team. McEachern was more big and physical up front. (North Cobb) is trying to get off the ball quicker, so we’ve got to be solid up front.”
The North offense vs. North Cobb defense match-up also features another intriguing clash.
Bulldogs quarterback John Urzua, who is fresh off his 490-yard, seven touchdown performance last week, and his fully-stocked arsenal of receivers — led by brothers Daniel and Josh Imatorbhebhe, Almonzo Brown and Kyler Knudsen — will try to attack a capable Warriors secondary highlighted by corners Cameron Albright (North Carolina) and Latrell Gibbs (Appalachian State).
While Sphire has confidence in his aerial assault, he is hoping to see more balance from the running game. Last weekend Jordan Weddington averaged 6.2 yards on eight carries.
“We’ll try to keep (North Cobb) off balance and move the pocket a little more to where the launch point is different,” Sphire said. “And we’ve got to run the football. We’re not the type of team that can win being one-dimensional. We’ve got to run the ball better than we did the other night.”
North Cobb Warriors (4-AAAAAA)
Coach: Shane Queen
Last week: Lost to Northside-Warner Robins 38-20
North Gwinnett Bulldogs (7-AAAAAA)
Coach: Bob Sphire
Last week: Beat McEachern 52-49
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting between the two schools
Directions to North Gwinnett High School: From I-85, go west on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road until it becomes Suwanee Dam Road. School is on the right.