North Gwinnett defeats Norcross

North Gwinnett’s unbeaten football team proved Friday why it’s ranked No. 14 nationally by USA Today.

The Bulldogs, No. 2 in Class AAAAA, dismantled previously undefeated Norcross, leading by four touchdowns at halftime and cruising 38-0 for their second consecutive shutout and third consecutive victory over the Blue Devils.

Alone atop Region 7-AAAAA and vying for a second consecutive region title in the school’s 50-plus years, coach Bob Sphire’s Bulldogs manhandled Norcross nearly the way they did Meadowcreek 45-0 the previous week.

The Bulldogs are 32-3 in region in five seasons under Sphire and travel next week to Mountain View riding a 11-game region win streak.

“We haven’t been the smartest bunch every Friday night, but we’ve gotten great effort and great passion from our guys,” Sphire said. “We’re not extremely athletic either, but we’ve put our hearts out there every night.”

North (6-0, 3-0) kept No. 7-ranked Norcross (5-1, 2-1) bottled up, holding a team that averaged 311 yards per game to only 31 in the first half and 75 all night, including only four double-digit gains. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs picked apart Gwinnett’s second-stingiest defense, scoring on four of their first six possessions, including once on a double handoff and pass from running back Joe Jones to C.J. Uzomah for a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.

North staked its 7-0 advantage on Jones’ 15-yard run with 6:08 left in the first quarter, then went up 14-0 on Ethan Kilgore’s 13-yard run with 14 seconds remaining in the quarter.

Norcross had opportunity to trim North’s 28-0 advantage after Alvin Kamara’s long kickoff return to North’s 21 six seconds before intermission, but Matt Poole’s pass was batted down at the goal line as the half ended.

The Bulldogs led 31-0 on Jeff Hatley’s field goal with 5:59 left in the third, then achieved their final margin on reserve Jean Joseph’s 4-yard run with 4:32 left on the running fourth-quarter clock.

Sphire realizes, however, that reaching at least the state quarterfinals a fifth straight time won’t be easy.