North Gwinnett 28, Grayson 10

By Michael Alpert

For the AJC

Grayson entered Friday’s second-round game of the Class AAAAAA playoffs with a more renowned defense than visiting North Gwinnett.

But it was North’s that stood firmer and turned three fumble recoveries and an interception into a 28-10 victory and a quarterfinal date next week at Lovejoy.

“We’re not as good on defensively (as we are offensively), but we’ve been scrappy,” North coach Bob Sphire said. “You’ve got to make plays when you have a chance, especially in a game like this at this point in the season.”

Dante Sawyer’s fumble recovery and interception led North’s defense, which forced Grayson to put the ball on the ground nine times and lose three, as well as throw the interception. Preston Green and Bobby Young also chipped in recoveries.

North scored on its first five possessions, the first and third of which began with takeaways. Methodically, with four field goals, then two touchdowns and a safety, the No. 4 Bulldogs (11-1) avenged their second-round loss to the No. 3 Rams (10-2) in the same round two years ago, in the teams’ only meeting previously.

After Sawyer halted Grayson’s game-opening drive with his recovery at North’s 19-yard line, North marched to Grayson’s 19 where Michael D’Angola’s 36-yard field goal put the Bulldogs ahead 3-0. D’Angola’s 31-yarder put North up 6-0 with 9:35 left in the first, and after Preston Green’s fumble recovery, D’Angola’s 37-yarder upped the Bulldogs’ advantage to 9-0.

The defending state champion Rams came as close as they would, within 9-3, on Alex Louthan’s 36 yard field goal with six seconds left in the first half. But the Bulldogs answered with D’Angola’s 29-yard field goal for a 12-3 lead with 9:35 remaining in the third quarter, then pulled away.

Receiver Nate Brown’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Caleb Scott widened North’s advantage to 19-3 with 7:58 left in the third quarter, and when a Grayson snap over its punter’s head rolled out the back of the end zone, the safety put North ahead 21-3. The Bulldogs held their biggest lead, 28-3, after gaining possession on Sawyer’s interception and Brown’s 7-yard touchdown reception from Michael Haynes with less than four minutes left.

Grayson pulled within the the final margin on a 41-yard pass.

Sphire said his players aren’t the type to be awed by playing at places like Grayson, where the Rams had won 14 straight.

“We’ve played in tough settings before,” Sphire said of games including a preseason one at Stephenson and North’s 16-14 season-opening win at the Georgia Dome. “I don’t think it’s a shock to our system to play great teams in great environments.”


North Gwinnett: 6 3 12 7 – 28

Grayson: 0 3 0 7 – 10

NG — Michael D’Angola 36 FG

NG — D’Angola 32 FG

NG — D’Angola 37 FG

G — Alex Louthan 36 FG

NG — D’Angola 29 FG

NG — Caleb Scott 15 pass from Nate Brown (D’Angola kick)

NG — Safety (punt snap rolls out of back of end zone)

NG — Brown 7 pass from Michael Haynes (D’Angola kick)

G — Cory Schaeffer 41 pass from David McTier (Louthan kick)

15 comments Add your comment

Jake Hyatt

November 23rd, 2012
11:01 pm

Great job North Gwinnet Bulldogs! You guys played hard with a lot of heart!


November 23rd, 2012
11:02 pm

Congrats. NG I didn’t pick you guys but good job.


November 23rd, 2012
11:19 pm

Congrats North Gwinnett! You join Parkview in the teams that beat Grayson!


November 23rd, 2012
11:26 pm

I told you Grayson did have the best team or defense in the state. Good season. Good team. So much looking ahead. Good job North.


November 24th, 2012
12:13 am

6A championship winner North Gwinnett beats Norcross in rematch.

NG bracket to final four a lock.


November 24th, 2012
12:19 am

Congrats to the hardest working coaching staff in ga .. Great win against a great Grayson team… Sphire and Dixon best coaching combo at any level in Georgia … Go North Gwinnett !!!


November 24th, 2012
12:33 am

I don’t think that Grayson was looking ahead, but I do think that they were shell shocked at how NG beat Grayson at their own game on their home field. Lovejoy will get their first dose of an amazingly well coached team and philosphy.

@ Sportsnut…I hope we show up to play against yall, or else it will be ugly! If you thought Colquitt’s coaching staff was good, just until you see Sphire/Mo Dixon in action.

Rickey Pines

November 24th, 2012
12:33 am

North Gwinnetts Tackles Mitchell Hyatt #75 and DeVondre Seymour #70 shut down Robert Nkemdiche biggest performance of the year from North’s offensive line. Great job guys cant wait to watch North play Lovejoy.


November 24th, 2012
1:03 am

Rickey Pines the NG baseball player? Is that you?


November 24th, 2012
1:04 am

You’re right though, they handled #1 VERY well all game with the exception of a few big plays from Robert. You can’t contain the Hulk every play of the game though.


November 24th, 2012
1:31 am

@NGHS 09 – You are right about beating us at our own game.

@Rickey Pines – They did a good job and got away with a lot all night. That’s the way the game goes.

NG, conrats on a good win. Keep that kind of play up and you should make it to the Dome.


November 24th, 2012
8:44 am

The better coached team won without doubt! !!! NG vs Parkveiw . Best two coached teams rise to the top for the title. !!!


November 24th, 2012
9:29 am

I’m a Grayson Dad, and that was a well coached and ready team last night. Best defense I have seen all year. Congrats to NG and to Grayson on a great run. Conn’s staff will have their greatest challenge next year as the current group of juniors have seen no time on Friday nights except got McCall (#6). the rest have only been tested on Thursday nights. They have one two JV championships and gone undefeated for two seasons, but that’s not Friday night football.


November 24th, 2012
10:28 am

Congrats North Gwinnett. Won it fair and square, you were ready for the battle. Grayson had a good run but I think finally all the attention and distractions finally got to some players. Gwinnett will be well reprisented in the home stretch of the playoffs. Grayson has to rebuild.


November 24th, 2012
10:44 am

Congrats to a well prepared North Gwinnett Bulldog football team. You played your Best against one of the Best and successfully advanced. No Letting Down from here on out. Awesome that 4 Great Gwinnett Teams are on tapp to be able to Take State and keep that State Championship trophy in our county. Of the four left I like No Gwnt chances. Good luck on your way to the Dome!!