Georgia High School Football Spring Preview AJC 30 In 30 Series: North Gwinnett Bulldogs

(This is part of the AJC’s “30 in 30″ series — with quick hits on top high school football teams across the metro area and state during spring football practice. We’re doing 30 football teams in 30 days. Click here for a master list. Hey AJC, what about spring sports? You know, the non-football sports? Click here)

IN MY OPINION: Bob Sphire is one of a handful of Georgia's high school coaches that I think would be excellent candidates for a college assistant job. He has performed miracles at North Gwinnett. When I asked Sphire about his college interest a few months ago, he said he was happy in the high school ranks (AJC photo)

IN MY OPINION: Bob Sphire is one of a handful of Georgia's high school coaches that I think would be an excellent candidate for a college assistant job. He has performed miracles at North Gwinnett. When I asked Sphire about any college interest a few months ago, he said he was happy in the high school ranks (AJC photo)

So many good things have happened over the last four years under North Gwinnett mastermind Bob Sphire, that it’s hard to believe that Bulldogs were once a laughingstock among Gwinnett County’s football nation.

How good is North Gwinnett now? They were arguably the second-best team in Georgia last year, suffering their only loss to eventual state champion Camden County in Class AAAA quarterfinals. It dampened an otherwise-perfect season, as the Suwanee school finished with a stellar 12-1 record.

It was fourth time in four years under Sphire that has North Gwinnett has won 10 or more games. What is the significance of that? Since North Gwinnett kicked off football in 1961, the team hadn’t won 10 games in a season until Sphire’s arrival. That covers a 50-year span.

What about this spring? “We always use spring practice to tinker with different adjustments and (formations) within our overall schemes to see how some of these ideas and wrinkles may fit our particular personnel for the coming year,” Sphire said.

” Sometimes we find that they fit and other years they don’t, but that is always a goal of spring practice.  We are also always looking for new personnel to step up for the many senior starters (lost to graduation) … so spring practice is a beginning point for figuring out who is getting ready to play.”

North Gwinnett returns only five starters, including three on offense. However, the Bulldogs are stellar on quality, if not quantity. Here are three players to watch:

  • CJ Uzomah, QB, 6-6, 242: Arguably the state’s top QB, possessing dozens of scholarship offers. Said Spire: “CJ is a very versatile QB with a big arm, which gives us a real vertical threat game to go with our spread offense.  He is also an outstanding runner.”
  • Brandon McGowan, LB, 6-3, 218: Hard-nosed defender has early offers from Air Force and South Alabama. “Brandon is a very versatile,” Sphire said. ” He has the size, strength and toughness to play in the box defensively, but also the athleticism to play on the edge — and in space, as needed by us.  He is a very cerebral player, also.”
  • Manrey Saint-Amour, OL, 6-2, 245: Counted on to be one of the team’s leaders. Said Spire, “He is very athletic and has a great work ethic.  He plays with great passion and finishes each play all the way to the whistle … He has the ability to run and pass block with equal success.”

Team: North Gwinnett Bulldogs

Spring Game: 6 p.m., May 22

Spring practice dates: May 10-22

Last year’s record: 12-1

Starters lost: 17

Head coach: Bob Sphire

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YOUR TURN: Do you think North Gwinnett will win 10 games again this year? Please post below.

We always use spring practice to tinker
with different adjustments and schemes
within our overall schemes to see how
some of these ideas and wrinkles may fit
our particular personnel for the coming
year.  Sometimes we find that they fit
and other years they don’t, but that is
always a goal of spring practice.  We are
also always looking for new personnel to
step up for the many senior starters we
have finish in the program annually, so
that is also another key component to
spring practice.  At this time there are so
many opportunities due to our degree of
graduation that it is hard to say where
this will start and where it will finish.  We
only have 3 starters back on offense and
a couple on defense, so spring practice
is a beginning point for figuring out who is
getting game ready.

15 comments Add your comment

Gwinnett Fan

May 10th, 2010
12:16 pm

North should have another strong team this year. Should be the best team from Metro Atlanta. We look forward to challenging South GA (Camden, Lowndes, Colquitt) in the playoffs. Until Camden is defeated in the playoff, they are still the top rated team in the state.

Terry

May 10th, 2010
8:17 pm

Gwinnett fan, you must have fallen and bumped your head. North Gwinnett lost 17 starters and they’re the best team from metro Atlanta. I think not. As far as Camden is concerned,they had a lot of starters graduate and they were number 1 last year. This is a different team.

White Trash

May 10th, 2010
8:45 pm

CAMDEN did lose some starters but were able to keep the main folks. Remember, it was supposed to be a rebuilding year last season and you see were that got them. Camden will continue to make a deep run in the playoffs and defend thier Championship.

White Trash

May 10th, 2010
8:46 pm

Has anyone looked at Camdens out of State schedule, WOW..

SouthGARules

May 11th, 2010
8:19 am

North may have lost 17 starters, but they will be a playoff team in Region 7-AAAAA along with Peachtree Ridge, Norcross & Collins Hill.

WILDCAT FAN

May 11th, 2010
5:58 pm

Yes ,Camden lost some players, but the kids that are stepping in are great players with live game experience. And we had a lot of young players last year play in the playoff games to get them ready for this year. Camden has a lot of studs, this team could be very scary. Very scary.

TarHeelBred bleeds TarHeelBlue

May 11th, 2010
7:17 pm

“YOUR TURN: Do you think North Gwinnett will win 10 games again this year? Please post below.”

Yes, North Gwinnett will win 10 games again this year. Bob Sphire has proven to be an excellent program builder and a great overall coach since he has been at North, but Sphire wasn’t exactly no slouch before came to Georgia as he won two state titles as a distinguished head coach in Kentucky. I know that Kentucky ain’t exactly Georgia when it comes to high school football, as a matter of fact, Kentucky isn’t even in the same galaxy when it comes to high school football, but the relocation from KY to GA hasn’t stopped Sphire from doing some of his best work in building up a North program that already had loads of potential and a good bit of community support in a super tough and ultra competitive area for high school football in Gwinnett County’s Region 7-AAAAA.

In fact, Sphire probably did some of his best work last year in guiding a North Gwinnett team to a 10-0 regular season record, the team’s first Region 7-AAAAA title and a number one seed in the state playoffs. A team that had some chemistry issues at times during the season that became somewhat public after the team’s big 26-16 win over region rival Norcross. Sphire has this team in a very good place, a place that might be even better were it not in a state as ultracompetitive for high school football as Georgia.

Old NG dog

May 12th, 2010
4:36 pm

I was at NG when they were awful, terrible and the laughing stock of the region. Its refreshing to see that they appear to be building a strong program…hopefully they can be as dominate as the Parkview of ten years ago.

TarHeelBred bleeds TarHeelBlue

May 12th, 2010
4:53 pm

Old NG dog

May 12th, 2010
4:36 pm
“I was at NG when they were awful, terrible and the laughing stock of the region. Its refreshing to see that they appear to be building a strong program…hopefully they can be as dominate as the Parkview of ten years ago.”

Old NG Dog, I don’t know if they can be as dominant as the Parkview of ten years ago because Gwinnett County and Georgia high school football in general is alot more competitive than it was ten years ago, but if North keeps consistently winning like they’ve done over the past four or so seasons, they just might end up in that neighborhood with the direction they’re going.

jockfest

May 14th, 2010
9:01 am

Wow. The second best team in the state last year? Gee, I would have thought colquitt lowndes…people that actually competed with camden. Not got beat 35 to 0.

SouthGARules

May 14th, 2010
2:32 pm

I thought that NSWR was the second best team last year. ENR & other Eagle fans would tell you so. NSWR-2nd in state, 2nd in Warner Robins.

SportsFan31313

May 15th, 2010
4:20 pm

Camden County wlll be the dominant Golliath Of Football In The State Of Georgia for years to come. They have all of the attributes that will keep them as a Top Contender. I can’t see know team this year beating them in the State Of Georgia. They have proven time after time that it doesnt matter where they play or who they play, they will beat them. I can see for a three peat for the State Title this 2010-2011. No doubt about it.

R.A. {Bob] Kennedy

May 23rd, 2010
7:45 pm

I am 76 years old, graduated from Suwanee elementary school, 7th grade. I was born at Level Creek, My Grandparents are buried at tne Level Creek Methodist church, across from North Gwinnett school. I graduated from the University of Florida, went there on A football scholership. I have always been proud of my early roots.

Quinn of the Ridge

May 24th, 2010
3:50 pm

Here’s my question, why is everyone bashing and doubting Peachtree Ridge, saying “They lost too many players” while North Gwinnett is being thrown around like the favorite to win the State when they lost more players than Peachtree Ridge.

The Red & Black

May 27th, 2010
9:00 pm