Alvin Kamara was a 2,000-yard rusher and one of the 10 most heavily recruited running backs in the country this year, but if there was a moment that defined his senior season at Norcross High School, it was a catch.
It came with less than five minutes to play in the Class AAAAAA championship game. Norcross trailed Lovejoy 14-9.
Kamara would rush for 141 yards that day in the Georgia Dome – his 11th straight game over 100. But facing a third-and-14 from the Norcross 39-yard line, Kamara was lined up as an inside receiver in what was a make-or-break situation.
Kamara ran an out route, cut back across the middle and caught quarterback Joseph Wilber’s pass in stride down the left sideline for the touchdown, 69 yards. Norcross suddenly led a game that looked lost. The 21-14 victory gave Norcross its first state title in 56 years of varsity football.
‘’The tougher the game, the better he played,’’ Norcross coach Keith Maloof said of Kamara. “It showed more in the playoffs than in the regular season. When he needed to, he played at a level that not many can play.’’
Kamara is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s all-classification player of the year.
A blue-chip recruit for a year now, Kamara is expected to choose between Alabama or Georgia in the coming weeks, but his stock rose as a senior as he rushed for 2,264 yards and scored 31 touchdowns. That’s the most rushing yardage for a player on a state championship team in the highest classification since Brookwood’s Paul Freeman ran for 2,326 in 1996.
It was Kamara’s ability to make big plays – running, receiving or passing – against perhaps the toughest schedule in the state that separated him in Georgia this season. Norcross went 15-0 in the highest class, beating eight teams that would rank in the final top 10. No opponent came closer than seven points.
In the playoffs, Kamara averaged 172.6 yards rushing in Norcross’ five victories. Throw in his receiving totals and Kamara averaged nearly 208 yards from scrimmage.
That doesn’t count two critical passes, one a 30-yard touchdown throw in the 34-20 victory over Camden County in the quarterfinals, the other a 35-yarder in the championship game that set up Norcross’ first touchdown.
‘’I think he’s the best football player in the state of Georgia,’’ said Colquitt County coach Rush Propst, whose team lost to Norcross 41-27 in the semifinals. “I know some others got the preseason accolades, but I think Kamara did more for his football team than anybody.’’
Propst said that Kamara was the best player that one of his teams had faced since he came to Georgia in 2008. Colquitt teams have seen state players of the year Robert Nkemdiche of Grayson, Hutson Mason of Lassiter and Greg Reid of Lowndes.
“If I were on the next level recruiting a kid, he’d be the No. 1 back that I’d go after,’’ Propst said. “He can run inside the box with physicality and run outside with speed, and he has the ability to make you miss. And the other thing that sets him above the rest is that he can catch the football. He can beat you as a receiver.’’
That he proved.
‘’Time after time, Alvin rose to the occasion,’’ Maloof said. “What he did was not just bring his level of play, but he brought everybody’s up. He’s basically the one who led us to a state championship.’’