Norcross 41, South Gwinnett 18

Snellville - Norcross hit big plays in all three phases of the game Friday, including a 99-yard kick return and two defensive scores, in its 41-18 victory over South Gwinnett at Richard Snell Community Stadium.

Three plays and 1 minute, 37 seconds into the game, Norcross quarterback AJ Watkins avoided the pressure and took off downfield for a 74-yard touchdown run to give the Blue Devils (3-2) an early 7-0 lead. The special teams had its moment in the spotlight after a South Gwinnett field goal when Zion Taylor returned the kickoff 99 yards for a 14-3 lead.

The Comets answered with back-to-back offensive touchdowns, a momentum swing that started with a muffed punt by the Blue Devils that gave South Gwinnett the ball at the NHS 29-yard line. Comet quarterback Nathaniel Miller punched it in from 5 yards, and running back Jayshawn Appling ran in the two-point conversion to make it a three-point game.

South Gwinnett got the ball back after NHS went three-and-out, and running back Jayqunn Billingsley broke loose for a 38-yard score on a fourth-and-two. The Comets led 18-14 with eight minutes remaining in the second quarter and were dominating time of possession.

But the Blue Devils took over from there after Watkins found Nakai Poole for a 21-yard touchdown pass. Poole ran an out route to the sidelines and juked his defender to create an opening to the end zone.

On the next Comet possession, Miller had a pass go off the hands of his intended target and into the hands of cornerback Tywan Royal, who had no one between him and the end zone and ran it back for a 30-yard touchdown.

Norcross took a 27-18 lead into halftime and shut down the South Gwinnett offense in the second half.

Less than three minutes into the third quarter, the Blue Devils took advantage of a bad snap on a punt by South Gwinnett and came up with a first-and-10 on the SG 27-yard line. Watkins hit his tight end Lawson Luckie over the middle for a 13-yard score to make it 34-18.

The Blue Devils finally sealed it when Miller was sacked and stripped deep in his own territory, and Andre Thompson came up with the recovery and returned it 16 yards for the third non-offensive touchdown of the game. The Blue Devils ran less than 40 plays in the game.

“They can eat up a little bit of clock and try to keep our offense off the field, but you see what happens when we have opportunities,” NHS head coach Keith Maloof said. “We’ve got weapons everywhere. We’ve just got to continue to utilize them.

“That’s the way we’ve got to play. We haven’t had any of that happen for us early in the year, and when you’re playing really good football teams, you’ve got to take advantage of their mistakes.”

Norcross -- 14 -- 13 -- 7 -- 7 -- 41

South Gwinnett -- 3 -- 15 -- 0 -- 0 -- 18

First Quarter

NHS—AJ Watkins 74 run (Drew Duva kick)

SG — Eric Calvillo 37 field goal

NHS — Zion Taylor 99 kick return (Duva kick)

Second Quarter

SG — Nathaniel Miller 5 run (Jayshawn Appling conversion)

SG — Jayqunn Billingsley 38 run (Calvillo kick)

NHS — Nakai Poole 21 pass from Watkins (Duva kick)

NHS — Tywan Royal 30 interception return (kick failed)

Third Quarter

NHS — Lawson Luckie 13 pass from Watkins (Duva kick)

Fourth Quarter

NHS — Andre Thompson 16 fumble return (Duva kick)