Norcross and North Gwinnett each enter tonight’s Region 7-AAAAAA as the only remaining unbeaten teams in one of the state’s toughest regions. Norcross has entered its game with North Gwinnett the past two seasons undefeated only to taste defeat as the Bulldogs have used the victory as a springboard to the region championship. This year, each team will be looking to capture its first region victory and get a leg up towards either a fourth straight crown in North Gwinnett’s case or a first since 2007 in Norcross’ situation.
The Norcross offense begins with running back Alvin Kamara, a four-star back considered by several recruiting services to be the top back in the state. Kamara will be out for a bit of revenge after coughing up a crucial fumble in last year’s game which jumpstarted the North Gwinnett comeback in a 29-22 victory. Kamara was limited in last week’s win over Parkview after suffering an ankle injury, but he rushed for 168 yards and a pair of scores against South Gwinnett to open the year.
Joseph Wilber has shown he can throw the ball around. In the win over South Gwinnett, Wilber was 15-of-22 for 142 yards and two scores against Parkview, Wilber was 12-of-16 for 113 yards and another pair of touchdowns.
The X-factor for Norcross’ attack may be Myles Autry. The junior rushed for 71 yards, hauled in a touchdown catch and returned a punt for a score. Last season, Autry dazzled the home Norcross fans with a 52-yard punt return for a score before halftime, giving the Blue Devils a 16-0 lead.
This year, however, the Bulldogs will be at home, a place where North Gwinnett rarely loses. Bob Sphire’s team opened the year with a 16-14 win over Colquitt County in the Georgia Dome thanks to a last-second Michael D’Angola field goal. There was very little drama in North Gwinnett’s 38-0 win over A.C. Flora in the National High School Gridiron Challenge game two weeks ago. The Bulldogs piled up nearly 500 yards of total offense as senior quarterback Michael Haynes has seized the starting job and not looked back. The senior threw for three scores on 18-of-26 passing with 236 yards. Haynes also used his legs to the tune of 62 yards on 14 carries. The Bulldogs’ attack features 14 different receivers that are threats to haul in a pass or two, led by Jonathan Lewis and Russell King.
Defensively, Donnie Miles (UNC) and Jalen Brooks (Maryland) lead a talented North Gwinnett secondary that plays behind some beef up front, including Preston Green and Dante Sawyer. The junior Sawyer looked unstoppable at times against Colquitt County. Linebackers Carter Cross and Rossie Cobb also fly all over the field to make plays. Miles came away with a big interception late in last year’s game to set up the game-winning score.
Before the season, Sphire told Score that his program was in crisis mode after losing 10 assistants to promotions over the last 18 months. The Bulldogs started off rocky against Colquitt County in the 2012 Metro PCS Corky Kell Classic, but rebounded after Miles took a handoff 77 yards to jumpstart the offense and the season. If the defensive secondary continues to make plays and the offense stays in a rhythm, it will be a tall task for Norcross to walk out of Tom Robinson Stadium with a victory. However, if Kamara’s ankle has healed and he is back to full speed, don’t count the Blue Devils out of the GPB-TV game of the week.