Hayden Sphire threw three touchdown passes, and North Gwinnett overcame three turnovers to defeat Camden County 34-14 in the Corky Kell Classic on Saturday, spoiling the Wildcats’ first game under coach Welton Coffee.
Sphire was intercepted on his first attempt, and the Bulldogs fumbled after a pass completion to thwart another first-half drive.
The shaky start didn’t last, as the Bulldogs, ranked No. 4 in Class AAAAAA, rebounded to outgain No. 5 Camden County 395-248 and compiled 22 first downs.
Sphire finished with 206 passing yards, while Chris Leggett carried 23 times for 138 yards for North Gwinnett, 108 coming in the first half.
The Bulldogs’ 34 points were the most allowed by Camden County in a regular-season game since St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) defeated the Wildcats 42-28 in 2010. The last time a Georgia team scored 30 points in a regular-season game against Camden County was in the season opener in 1999, a 36-20 loss to Charlton County.
Camden County’s Demetri Saulsberry made a diving interception on Sphire’s first attempt on the Bulldogs’ second play on offense, and Camden County moved 69 yards in four plays for the first score, a 37-yard run by Antonio Wimbush.
The Bulldogs responded on the following series, moving 58 yards in seven plays. Sphire connected with Nate Brown from 7 yards out for the score.
The Bulldogs used some sleight of hand to notch their second touchdown. On third down from the Camden County 7-yard line, Sphire walked away from the line as if to take instructions from the bench, and the ball was snapped directly to Leggett. The play appeared to catch Camden County on its heels, and Leggett had a relatively easy run to the end zone.
The Wildcats answered on the next play from scrimmage with Harrison Poole’s 60-yard run at the 11:06 mark in the second quarter, knotting the score at 14.
From there, North Gwinnett seized control of the game, scoring the final 10 points of the half on Sphire’s 21-yard pass to Caleb Scott and getting an 18-yard field goal from Michael D’Angola as time expired.
They added 10 more in the first seven minutes of the third quarter. D’Angola booted his second field goal, this one from 40 yards out, and Sphire connected with Brown for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the game out of reach.
Poole finished with 136 yards on 12 carries for the Wildcats, who rushed for 247 yards and completed one of six pass attempts.