Collins Hill 42, North Gwinnett 21

Collins Hill wide receiver Travis Hunter (12) celebrates his touchdown with running back Spenser Anderson (26) in the first half against North Gwinnett.

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Collins Hill wide receiver Travis Hunter (12) celebrates his touchdown with running back Spenser Anderson (26) in the first half against North Gwinnett.

The Region 8 showdown between Collins Hill and No. 8 North Gwinnett was billed as a contest between offense and defense. Not only did the high-powered Collins Hill offense win the day, the Eagles also flashed their defensive chops.

“We told our kids, it’s not what offense does what,” Colins Hill coach Lenny Gregory said. “We felt like whatever team’s defense played better would win the game and I think our defense played better tonight.”

Collins Hill quarterback Sam Horn stepped to the front and threw five touchdown passes to help the Eagles to a 42-21 win over rival North Gwinnett on Friday at Alan Fahring Stadium.

The junior completed 18 of 38 passes for 351 yards and rushed for 22 yards before tweaking his left ankle midway in the third quarter. The training staff taped his ankle and he returned to lead another touchdown drive.

“They’re a big-pressure team,” Collins Hill coach Lenny Gregory said. “They bring a lot of pressure and we knew we couldn’t hold the ball very long … we had to get it out quick. We had to find out which linebacker they were blitzing and try to get behind them and be very patient and take the little routes they were going to give us.”

Three of the touchdown throws went to Sean Norris, who caught six passes including touchdowns of 7, 24 and 12 yards. The other two touchdowns, for 41 and 23 yards, were caught by Travis Hunter, who caught five passes. Hunter also ran for 9-yard score from the Wildcat position on the play after Horn was shaken up.

“They can’t cover everybody,” Gregory said. “They were bringing six and seven guys, so somebody is going to be open. Our staff did a great job having a plan that kept the sticks moving and then you throw it to No. 12 (Hunter) and it’s a pretty good plan. And Norris had a great game, too.”

The outburst came against a North Gwinnett defense had features two of the nation’s top recruits and had blanked its last two opponents. Instead it was the Collins Hill defense, led by James Smith, that intercepted three passes and silenced the Bulldogs' running game.

The victory gives the Eagles (6-2, 2-0) sole possession of first place in Region 8; they have games remaining against Mountain View and Mill Creek. North Gwinnett (5-3, 1-1) finishes the season against Peachtree Ridge and Mountain View. The Collins Hill victory ended a four-game losing streak to North Gwinnett.

“We’ve not put together a game like this all year,” Gregory said. “We knew we could do it. I’m so proud of our kids for believing in this.”

North Gwinnett quarterback Ashton Wood completed 13 of 20 passes for 106 yards and one touchdown, but threw two interceptions. Brinston Williams was North Gwinnett’s top rusher with 64 yards.

Collins Hill overcame an intentional grounding call to score its first touchdown. Horn threw to Hunter for 57 yards to pick up the first down and the two connected two plays later for a 31-yard touchdown.

North Gwinnett got a fortunate bounce and tied the game 7-7 with 3:01 left in the first quarter. The Bulldogs faced fourth-and-goal at the 2 and lined up for a field goal. But after a timeout, the Bulldogs opted for it and sent Carter powering into the line. He fumbled and the ball popped into the air and into a scrum, where lineman Hunter Buick recovered for the touchdown.

North Gwinnett failed to take advantage of two miscues. Horn was intercepted by Jordan Hancock, but the Bulldogs went three-and-out. An ensuing 18-yard punt set North up at the 35, but that drive faltered and a 39-yard field goal was wide.

Collins Hill was able to counter with a go-ahead touchdown. Horn threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Sean Norris to complete and 80-yard drive and give the Eagles a 14-7 lead.

The Eagles were able to make it 21-7 taking over with 1:21 left in the half and poking it in on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Horn to Norris with 7.3 seconds remaining.

Collins Hill quickly got the momentum in the second half thanks to Hunter’s interception, which he returned to the 13. On the next play after being assessed a personal foul, Horn thew to Hunter for a 28-yard touchdown for a 28-7 lead.

North Gwinnett answered with a touchdown drive. Wood made a nice throw to Cade Funderburk for a 26-yard touchdown. But Collins Hill responded with a hurry-up touchdown drive completed on Hunter’s 9-yard run.

Another interception, this time by Christian Harris, set up a short drive capped by a 12-yard pass from Horn to Norris to expand the lead to 42-14. North scored late on Justin Gipson’s 18-yard run.