Known more for its offense, North Gwinnett turned to its defense, which shut out Collins Hill in the second half to lead the Bulldogs to a 38-24 victory against the Eagles. North Gwinnett improved to 8-1, 5-1 in Region 7-AAAAAA, and strengthened its position to secure a home playoff game. Collins Hill dropped to 5-3, 4-2.
Quarterback Michael Haynes led the Bulldogs with two touchdowns to Caleb Scott. Haynes completed 15 of 25 passes for 251 yards and also ran for 73 yards on 14 carries, repeatedly breaking the pocket and running free for nice gains.
Trailing 24-21 in the third quarter, North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire reached in his bag of tricks. Gaining possession on the Eagles’ 38-yard line, Sphire called a flea-flicker that completely fooled the Eagles, and Haynes hit Scott streaking downfield for the go-ahead score.
Three plays later, the defense stepped up when Ben Carswell intercepted a pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 35-24. In the first half, North Gwinnett had been unable to stop the Eagles, who scored on all four possessions. But led by Jalen Brooks, Dante Sawyer and Joshua Manners, the Bulldogs turned up the pressure and roughed up quarterback Brett Sheehan, who entered the game leading the county in passing with more than 1,800 yards.
Both teams started strong, showcasing their prolific, precise passing attacks. Marching up and down the field, they traded touchdowns on their first two possessions for a 14-14 score at the end of the first quarter. North Gwinnett took its opening drive 80 yards in eight plays with Haynes throwing to Caleb Scott for an 18-yard touchdown. The Eagles’ Tyler Henderson bounced outside and ripped off a 42-yard touchdown run to even the score at 7-7.
After a 5-yard touchdown run by North’s Cam Lewis, Sheehan answered with a 25-yard touchdown run to cap a four-play 69-yard drive. Sheehan then connected with Grant McDonald in the back of the end zone to give the Eagles a 21-14 lead with nine minutes left in the second period. On the ensuing drive, North’s Nick Andryusky’s 2-yard run tied the score at 21-21.
Sheehan finished the game with 227 yards passing before leaving in the fourth quarter with an apparent ankle injury.
North closes out the season with games against Mountain View and travels to Peachtree Ridge. Collins Hill plays at Duluth and hosts Mill Creek.
NORTH GWINNETT – 14 – 7 – 14 – 3 – 38
COLLINS HILL – 14 – 10 – 0 – 0 – 24
NG – Caleb Scott 18 pass from Michael Haynes (Michael D’Angola kick)
CH – Tyler Henderson 42 run (Mitchell Blanchard kick)
NG – Cam Lewis 5 run (D’Angola kick)
CH – Brett Sheehan 25 run (Blanchard kick)
CH – Grant McDonald 10 pass from Sheehan (Blanchard kick)
NG – Nick Andryusky 2 run (D’Angola kick)
CH – Blanchard 35 FG
NG – Scott 38 pass from Haynes (D’Angola kick)
NG – Ben Carswell 20 interception return (D’Angola kick)
NG – D’Angola 27 FG