The offensive formula that had been the driving force in North Gwinnett’s 11-game winning streak worked to perfection again against McEachern in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals Friday night in Powder Springs.
Quarterback J.R. Martin, running back Devin Crosby and wide receiver Josh Downs had a hand in all 431 of North Gwinnett’s total yards and accounted for 27 of its points in a 32-13 victory over the second-ranked Indians.
The win puts No. 5 North Gwinnett (12-1), a state champion in 2017, in the semifinals against top-ranked Lowndes, which advanced with a 28-20 victory over Grayson. North Gwinnett is the Region 6 champion and Lowndes (13-0) won Region 1, so their game will be in Valdosta on Friday by virtue of a GHSA coin flip earlier this week that worked on Lowndes’ favor.
North Gwinnett has won 12 consecutive games since a 17-6 season-opening loss to Region 1 runner-up Colquitt County in the Corky Kell Classic.
Against McEachern, Crosby ran 31 times for 178 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the first half as the Bulldogs built a 14-0 lead. Martin was 10-of-18 passing for 202 yards, ran for 51 yards on seven carries and threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Downs on the Bulldogs’ first offensive play of the third quarter that increased the lead to 22-0. Downs had 137 yards receiving on six catches.
Martin (committed to Western Carolina) now has 2,177 passing yards for the season. Downs (North Carolina) surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in receiving with 1,097, and Crosby has 1,404 yards rushing.
“Listen man, it’s a three-headed monster there,” North Gwinnett coach Bill Stewart said. “It gives teams a lot of stuff to deal with. That was a great defense we were playing. We put up a lot of points, and you’ve got to do that in the playoffs.”
The highlight of the night offensively for McEachern was a 75-yard touchdown by Jordan Simmons on his first of two carries on the night that cut the lead to 22-7 with 9:08 to play in the third quarter. The Indians were within 12 points after a 6-yard touchdown pass from Carlos Del Rio-Wilson to Javon Baker made it a 25-13 game with 9:25 left but moved the ball no closer than the North Gwinnett 40-yard line on their final two possessions.
Crosby scored his third touchdown, a 2-yard run, with 2:51 remaining for the final margin.
McEachern finished with 276 yards of total offense. Del Rio-Wilson was 10-of-22 passing for 98 yards and ran for 62 yards on 19 carries. Bryce Archie was 5-of-6 passing for 43 yards in the first half.
“I’m so proud of [the defense],” Stewart said. “We really kept bowing it up. They had some plays that worked a little bit, and then our kids adjusted and kept playing and did some nice things. We kept executing and playing relentless and physical.”
North Gwinnett wasted little time gaining control, driving 66 yards in six plays on the game’s opening possession, scoring on Crosby’s 8-yard run with 10:02 remaining in the first quarter.
McEachern followed with a drive to the North Gwinnett 9-yard line but missed a 26-yard field goal. Del-Rio Wilson had back-to-back runs of 16 and 15 yards on the drive, making up 31 of the Indians’ 103 total yards in the half.
Crosby’s 23-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter gave the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead.
McEachern, the Region 3 champion, finished the year 12-1. The Indians fell one game short of their second semifinal appearance in three seasons.
North Gwinnett - 7-7-11-7 - 32
McEachern - 0-0-7-6 - 13
N - Devin Crosby 8 run (Andrew Lim kick), 10:02
N - Crosby 23 run (Lim kick), 8:31
N - Josh Downs 35 pass from J.R. Martin (Will Long run), 9:19
M - Jordon Simmons 75 run (Denzell Moore kick), 9:08
N - Lim 46 field goal, 0:42
M - Javon Baker 6 pass from Carlos Del Rio-Wilson (run failed), 9:25
N - Colzie 2 run (Lim kick), 2:51
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