SUWANEE — If there’s one thing North Gwinnett has shown early in the season it’s that it doesn’t need long to score late in a half or a game.
But against North Cobb, 35 seconds turned out to be just one too many for the Bulldogs.
A last-second toss to the end zone came up empty, allowing Tyler Queen’s 1-yard run with 39 seconds remaining to stand up and allow the visiting Warriors to pull off the 36-29 upset of the No. 2 state-ranked North Gwinnett on Friday night at Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium.
North (1-1) had built as much as a 16-point lead early in the third quarter on the strength of some solid execution, combined with a lot of trickery, including a pair of touchdown passes from non-quarterbacks.
But the Bulldogs could never quite deliver the knockout punch.
“We’re at the point now where we’ve got to be able to line up and run the football and throw the football and not win with anything that’s overly creative,” North coach Bob Sphire said. “That’s all good stuff, and I’m really glad our guys can execute. … But at the same time, (when) we’re in the situation we’re in up 29-13, you just need to be able to just line up and play football and win the game out.
“But you know, I really credit North Cobb. I told our coaches at halftime that bunch was not going to quit. They had a competitive energy about them, and you could sense they had something to prove.”
The Warriors (1-1) proved a lot after a Parker Sechrest interception set up Kameron Pickett’s 20-yard touchdown run that gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead at 29-13 with 9:51 left in the third quarter.
But a low snap prevented North from getting the extra point kick away, leaving it just a two-possession game.
And North Cobb was able to take advantage, responding in just 53 seconds on Queen’s 72-yard TD pass to Quannie Green to cut the North lead to 29-21 after the two-point conversion pass.
Even after being pinned back at their own 1-yard line with 10:39 remaining, the Warriors kept charging forward.
Queen completed four passes for 92 yards, including the final 41 yards to D.J. Render with 6:15 remaining, and then hit C.J. Cole for the two-point conversion to pull the Warriors even at 29-all.
“A 99-yard drive, there’s just a lot of accolades,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “We never talked about winning or losing. We just talked about us getting better. We still made a lot of mistakes, but you cannot question that our kids will battle for 48 minutes every night.”
After an initial first down, the North Cobb defense then forced North into a punt, and once the Warriors got the ball back with 3:51 left, they started picking up yards in chunks, including runs of 17 and 29 yards by Bryce Perryman and 11 more from Tyler Queen to take the ball down to the Bulldogs’ 1.
After being stopped short twice, the Auburn-bound quarterback finally found the end zone with 35 seconds left to give North Cobb the lead at 36-29 with 35 seconds left.
But as North has proved, that was enough to get one last shot.
A 32-yard return by Jordan Frye, followed by two John Urzua completions and a 15-yard personal foul penalty gave North one last play at the North Cobb 25 with nine seconds left.
Urzua managed to avoid a heavy rush and scramble away before throwing into the end zone, where it look like Daniel Imatorbhebhe may have even hauled in the toss.
But even if he did, the Missouri commit was well out of bounds as the clock ran out, giving North Cobb the win.
Queen ended the night completing 27 passes to eight different receivers on 39 attempts for 379 yards and three TDs, and running for 96 more yards and two scores.
Despite the loss, Urzua was 20 of 29 for 251 yards.
Trailing 6-0 on a 6-yard Queen to Jordan McCray TD pass late in the first quarter, Sphire and the Bulldogs started reaching into their bag of tricks.
First, a fake punt on the Bulldogs’ 28 turned into a 10-yard run by Matt Andryusky for a first down on the last play of the first quarter.
That drive eventually ended conventionally seven plays later when Pickett dove in from a yard out to put North up 7-6 with 10:03 left in the first half.
After stopping North Cobb on fourth and 1 on the Warriors’ 40 with just under eight minutes left in the half, more elaborate trickery helped the Bulldogs extend their lead.
Back-up quarterback Ayinde Russell was inserted and tossed a backwards lateral to Kyler Knudsen who threw back to the senior signal caller, who dashed down the sideline 40 yards for the score, making the lead 15-6 after Jordan Weddington’s two-point conversion with 7:25 left until intermission.
North Cobb answered by taking advantage of three key penalties that led to first downs to pull close in the final minute of the half.
After having one touchdown pass called back on a holding penalty, Queen connected with Drew Tejchman for a 33-yard completion to the North 1, where the Auburn-bound senior snuck it in three plays later to pull the Warriors to within 15-13 with 39 seconds left in the half.
But that was plenty of time for the Bulldogs.
After two completions from Urzua moved the ball 25 yards to the North 46, the senior received the ball back after a reverse and a flea flicker toss before finding Kenneth Hancock for a 53-yard completions down to the North Cobb 1 with 12 seconds left.
On the next play, Urzua moved into the pass pattern with the direct snap heading to Weddington.
After a couple of steps towards the line, the senior running back leapt in the air and tossed to Almonzo Brown, who snagged the ball for a 1-yard TD reception with nine seconds left, and sent the Bulldogs into intermission with a 23-13 lead after Urzua’s two-point pass to Daniel Imatorbhebhe.
North Cobb 36, North Gwinnett 29
Scoring Summary First Quarter
North Cobb: Jordan McCray 6 pass from Tyler Queen (kick failed), 1:47
North Gwinnett: Kameron Pickett 1 run (Matt Harvey kick), 10:03
North Gwinnett: Ayinde Russell 40 pass from Kyler Knudsen (Jordan Weddington run), 7:25
North Cobb: Tyler Queen 1 run (Will Horton kick), 0:39
North Gwinnett: Almonzo Brown 1 pass from Weddington (Daniel Imatorbhebhe pass from John Urzua), 0:09
North Gwinnett: Pickett 20 run (run failed), 9:51
North Cobb: Quannie Green 72 pass from Queen (Billy Nichols pass from Queen), 8:58
North Cobb: D.J. Render 41 pass from Queen (C.J. Cole pass from Queen), 6:15
North Cobb: Queen 1 run (Horton kick), 0:39
Team Statistics NC NG
First downs 25 22
Rushes-yards 40-227 26-128
Passing yards 379 292
Att.-Comp.-INT 27-39-1 22-32-1
Fumbles-lost 3-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 11-120 9-85
Rushing — North Cobb: Queen 24-96, Tijhae Brawner 4-62, Bryce Perryman 9-58, Elijah Hairston 3-11. North Gwinnett: Pickett 9-57, Jordan Frye 8-29, Urzua 5-13, Matt Andryusky 1-10, Weddington 2-8, Josh Imatorbhebhe 7, D. Imatorbhebhe 5 Almonzo Brown 1-4.
Passing — North Cobb: Queen 28-39-1, 379. North Gwinnett: Urzua 20-29-1, 251; Knudsen 1-1-0, 40, Weddington 1-1-0, 1; Ayinde Russell 0-1-0, 0.
Receiving — North Cobb: Render 5-61, Drew Tejchman 5-46, McCray 4-61, Green 3-94, Perryman 3-24, Cole 3-20, Nichols 2-55, Lloyd Jones 1-18. North Gwinnett: J. Imatorbhebhe 5-50, Weddington 4-44, Knudsen 3-24, Brown 3-0, Kenneth Hancock 2-89, Russell 1-40, Brian Eberhardt 1-15, D. Imatorbhebhe 1-14, Harold Johnson 1-5, Pickett 1-(-2).