Meredith added touchdown passes of 82 yards to KJ Law and 30 yards to Peters on the next two possessions and then scored on a 4-yard run for a 28-7 lead with 6:55 remaining in the first half.
Peyton Argent kicked a 39-yard field goal for a 31-7 lead before North Gwinnett’s Zach Johansen threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Marek Briley to cut the deficit to 31-14 with a minute to play in the half.
North Gwinnett (0-1) had 251 total yards in the first half, but about 60 percent of that came on the Bulldogs’ two touchdown plays The Bulldogs averaged just 3.2 yards on their other 31 plays of the half.
Hoover’s Ahamari Williams scored the only points in the second half on a 34-yard run with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Hoover has won 11 Alabama state championships since 2000 (most recently in 2017) and 13 overall, and it lost in the semifinals of the highest classification the past three seasons. North Gwinnett was Georgia’s Class 7A champion in 2017 and won region titles in nine of the past 12 seasons .
“We’re not worried about making a statement,” Niblett said. “We just feel like we’ve got something to prove to ourselves. We’re not trying to prove anything to anybody else, we just want to prove to ourselves how good we can be, because we’re the ones that have got to handle it.”
Meredith finished 16-of-26 passing for 333 yards and three touchdowns. His top targets were Peters (seven receptions, 137 yards, two touchdowns) and Law (three catches, 95 yards, one touchdown), and Williams led the running game with 118 yards on 14 carries.
North Gwinnett had just 42 yards of total offense in the second half to finish with 293. Washington ran for 114 yards on 13 carries but was limited to 5-of-23 passing for 47 yards with three sacks.
“That was the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in,” Meredith said. “Just the energy walking into the stadium, and on the drive up you could see everybody out there … it was pretty awesome. We played great football. There’s a lot of things to fix, but for week 1 we played a great game, and I think the scoreboard showed that.”
Hoover - 14-17-7-0 - 38
North Gwinnett - 7-7-0-0 - 14
N - Ethan Washington 73 run (Daniel Smith kick), 11:13
H - Cotton Peters 44 pass from Bennett Meredith (Peyton Argent kick), 7:57
H - KJ Law 82 pass from Meredith (Argent kick), 3:32
H - Peters 30 pass from Meredith (Argent kick), 10:38
H - Meredith 4 run (Argent kick), 6:55
H - Argent 39 field goal, 1:19
N - Marek Briley 80 pass from Zach Johansen (Smith kick), 1:01
H - Ahamari Williams 34 run (Argent kick), 3:00