By Michael Alpert
For the AJC
Joseph Jones’ consecutive 2-yard touchdown runs keyed visiting North Gwinnett’s 22-point fourth-quarter and 29-22 comeback victory over Norcross in a Region 7-AAAAA game Friday night.
North’s fourth straight victory over Norcross ruined the Blue Devils’ 5-0 start for a second consecutive season. Last year, the Bulldogs defeated the Blue Devils 38-0 at North and went on to win a second straight region championship.
This time, the Bulldogs, ranked No. 6 in Class AAAAA, spotted the No. 10 Devils a 22-0 lead before coming back to win their fifth consecutive game since losing their season opener to McEachern.
North tied it 22-22 with 2:09 to play, when Jones capped an eight-play drive with his first short run, and a tipped two-point conversion pass wound up in Russell King’s hands in the back of the end zone.
And if North’s comeback didn’t create enough suspense, another big play of theirs and a mechanical malfunction would. Moments after Donnie Miles intercepted for the Bulldogs at the Norcross 37, the lights went out with 1:08 to play. That caused a 25-minute delay, during which both teams went to their locker rooms.
Jones scored the winning touchdown with 16 seconds left.
Norcross (5-1, 2-1) held the game’s biggest lead, 22-0, when Martavius Edwards returned a fumble 53 yards for a touchdown with 8:53 left in the third quarter. But that’s when North finally created some momentum.
Scott Hosch’s 1-yard run with 1:30 left in the third quarter slimmed Norcross’ lead to 22-7. And once Norcross stopped North on fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line and gained possession, North’s Justin Thomas returned Alvin Kamara’s fumble 16 yards to bring the Bulldogs (5-1, 3-0) within 22-14 with 8:03 to play.
Norcross led 16-0 at halftime, thanks in large part to two big plays. Anthony Autry turned a 9-yard pass from Joseph Wilber into an 81-yard touchdown less than two minutes into the game for a 6-0 lead, and Chris Bingham made the the score 9-0 with a 21-yard field goal with 4:30 left in the quarter. Myles Autry returned a North punt 52-yards for a touchdown 4:44 before intermission.
North appeared to have scored on Hosch’s 24-yard pass over the middle to Donnie Miles 28 seconds before halftime, but the play was negated by penalty.