By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
North Gwinnett junior kicker Michael D’Angola calmly drilled a 34-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Bulldogs to a 16-14 win over Colquitt County, Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Game 3 of the Corky Kell Classic.
North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphire said he and his staff never mentioned the 17-7 loss, at home, that his Bulldogs suffered at the hands of Colquitt County last season in the second round of the state playoffs.
He didn’t have to.
“We studied the film so we could prepare, but that was it,” Sphire said. “This is high school football and it’s important to these kids. They want to compete with the best. I’m sure [the loss] was on their minds, but eveything was unsaid.”
The Bulldogs let their play and effort do the talking in the rematch. North Gwinnett’s defense was stout throughout the contest, holding the Packers to less than half of the 30 points per game they averaged last season.
“It was an unbelievable effort,” Sphire said. “We did the same thing last year. I can’t say enough about the way [the defense] played.”
Offensively, along with D’Angola’s heroics, Bulldog junior quarterback Michael Haynes outdid his more heralded counterpart, Colquitt’s Cole Segraves, who is being recruited by several FBS (formerly Division 1A) schools. Haynes completed 13-of-20 passes for 125 yards with one interception, while Segraves was 10-of-23 for 124 yards and two interceptions.
“Micheal’s a great athlete, a heck of a baseball player,” Sphire said. “He misses a lot of time in the spring and summer because he plays baseball, so he’s been a bit of a project. But he competes and he came up big for us.”
Haynes also rushed 12 times for 51 yards, and saved his biggest run for when the Bulldogs really needed it. Trailing 14-13 with 1:42 left in regulation time and no timeouts, North Gwinnett took over on its 46 yard line. Haynes hit receivers Nate Brown and Russell King, both juniors, for gains of 10 and 11 yards, respectively, but neither player could get out of bounds.
On the next play, with :46 seconds left, Haynes rolled to his left, tucked the ball away and sprinted 22 yards down the far sideline before he was knocked out of bounds at the Packers’ 11 yard line. Haynes was sacked for a loss to the 17 yard line on the next play by Colquitt defensive end Jamiyus Pittman.
But with the clock ticking down, the Bulldog field goal unit sprinted on to the field, lined up properly, and D’Angola did the rest, nailing the 34-yarder with plenty of room to spare. In a cruel bit of irony, earlier in the fourth quarter Pittman, who was dominant at times, dropped an easy two-point conversion pass on a “tackle eligible” play after Deonte McCain scored from five yards out to give Colquitt a 14-13 lead at the nine minute mark.
Colquitt County 3 2 3 6 14
North Gwinnett 7 0 6 3 16
CC – Roberto Vega 43 fg
NG – Andrew Westbrook 32 fumble return (Michael D’Angola kick)
CC – Safety; Hayden Sphire sacked in end zone by O’Shay Williams
CC – Vega 30 fg
NG – Donnie Miles 77 run (pass failed)
CC – Deonte McCain 5 run (pass failed)
NG – D’Angola 34 fg