Norcross 38, North Gwinnett 24
The Norcross Blue Devils and North Gwinnett Bulldogs are no longer region rivals, but the two AAAAAAA programs exchanged blows like the good old days, with the Blue Devils getting in more punches on the way to a 38-24 road win on Friday at Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium.
The No. 6-ranked Blue Devils (3-0) closed out the game with 21 fourth-quarter points to seal the victory over the No. 10 Bulldogs (2-2), who opened the game on a 14-3 run. Norcross used a combination of big plays in the passing and running game to break away late.
It was the first time in 16 years the two teams played without there being region standings on the line. The game still had the same feel to Blue Devils coach Keith Maloof.
“Any time we play them I don’t know what it is but we always start out sluggish,” said Maloof, now in his 18th season as Norcross coach. “You’ve got to give our guys credit. They got behind, came back through and did a lot of great things. They didn’t quit and kept the pressure on against a team that has improved tremendously from Week 1 to right now.”
Trailing 21-17 heading into the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils scored on a 40-yard run from Jared Simpkins to take the lead for good with 10:04 remaining. After forcing a Bulldogs punt on North Gwinnett’s next possession, Blue Devils quarterback Baron Radcliff connected with Robert Sims for a 57-yard touchdown on third-and-long to put Norcross ahead 31-21 with 6:38 left.
North Gwinnett would respond with a 33-yard field goal from Zaniel Phillips with 2:57 to go, but failed to recover the onside kick. The Blue Devils, starting from the North Gwinnett 49, looked to melt the clock in the run game, which led to two 17-yard gains followed by an 11-yard Necholas Sermons touchdown run – his second score of the game – to bring the score to its final margin.
North Gwinnett built its lead with a Ryan Lovelace 41-yard run for the game’s first score, and took a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter on Tyler Goodson’s 17-yard run. Norcross answered with a Radcliff-to-Tamir Jones 38-yard touchdown to go into halftime trailing 14-10. On the Blue Devils’ first possession of the second half, Sermons bolted 45 yards on the first play from scrimmage to give Norcross a 17-14 lead.
North Gwinnett would get its final touchdown on another long Lovelace run – this one from 40 yards – to go up 21-17 but would never lead again.
Norcross was led by Radcliff’s 239 yards and two scores on 15-of-26 passing. Sims had two catches for 81 yards and a score and Jones had four catches for 66 yards and a score. Sermons scored twice and had 63 yards on eight carries.
Lovelace led the Bulldogs with 126 yards and two scores on 20 carries. Cade Fortin completed 12 of his 28 passes for 145 yards. Ricky Reed caught four passes for 77 yards.
The Blue Devils host Archer next week in a non-region contest while the Bulldogs take a bye before hosting Mountain View in their Region 6 opener.
Norcross 3 7 7 21 – 38
North Gwinnett 7 7 7 3 – 24
NG – Ryan Lovelace 41 run (Zaniel Phillips kick)
N – Cole Hanna 19 FG
NG – Tyler Goodson 17 run (Phillips kick)
N – Tamir Jones 38 pass from Baron Radcliff (Hanna kick)
N – Necholas Sermons 45 run (Hanna kick)
NG – Lovelace 40 run (Phillips kick)
N – Jared Simpkins 40 run (Hanna kick)
N – Robert Sims 57 pass from Radcliff (Hanna kick)
NG – Phillips 33 FG
N – Sermons 11 run (Hanna kick)