By Michael Alpert
For the AJC
Colquitt County ran out of gas Friday night against Norcross.
After driving nearly 2,000 miles from Moultrie for Class AAAAAA playoff wins at McEachern, Newnan and Parkview, the Packers couldn’t speed around Norcross in their fourth consecutive state semifinal and lost 41-27.
Norcross halted Colquitt with the most points against it this season, more than in Valdosta’s 38-36 win over the Packers in Game 8. They used a solid passing game and were opportunistic, employed some methodical marches and solid defense for which they’ve become known.
The undefeated Devils (14-0) took an early two-touchdown lead and never let Colquitt (10-4) closer than within one, upending a Packers team now 13-4 in the playoffs through the last four years, including 11-3 on the road. Dramatically, the Devils extended their winningest season ever, beyond their only quarterfinal against Warner Robins in 2006 and into Saturday’s 8:30 p.m. final against Lovejoy at the Georgia Dome.
Though it all, Devils coach Keith Maloof has been amazed by his player’s calm.
“I’ve called it a calm confidence,” he said. “I knew we had potential to be here, and I’m not surprised at all. We’ve always known we can compete.”
The Devils stretched their two-touchdown halftime lead to three touchdowns twice in the second half and made the Packers’ 240-mile ride home seem perhaps longer.
Norcross’ Alvin Kamara eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards this season with 133 and his 25th touchdown, in addition to catching a 65-yard scoring pass. Devils quarterback Joseph Wilber’s 211 yards and two touchdowns passing upped him to 2,342 yards with 27 scores.
Wilber helped his own cause with a 3-yard TD run with 7:09 remaining that put Norcross ahead 41-20. Colquitt came as close as it would on Cole Segraves’ 18-yard scoring pass to Todd Boyd with 1:23 left.
Norcross, the No. 1 seed from Region 8, led 24-10 at halftime and never looked back. The Devils went up 7-0 when Wilber passed 63 yards to Trey Smith with 4:30 to go in the first quarter, then went ahead 14-0 when Brandon Garner returned a fumble 22 yards 10:13 before halftime.
Region 1’s fourth-seeded Packers, the only semifinalist seeded lower than second, pulled within a touchdown on John Boatright’s 3-yard run, but the Devils stretched their lead back to 21-7 two plays later on Wilber’s 65-yard pass to Kamara. The Devils held their biggest advantage of the first half, 24-7 on Joseph Mahfood’s 24-yard field goal, but Colquitt’s Will Bannister answered with a 43-yard boot as the half expired.
NORCROSS 41, COLQUITT COUNTY 27
Colquitt County: 0 10 3 14 – 27
Norcross: 7 17 10 7 – 41
N — Trey Smith 63 pass from Joseph Wilber (Joseph Mahfood kick)
N — Brandon Garner 22 fumble return (Mahfood kick)
CC — John Boatright 3 run (Will Bannister kick)
N — Alvin Kamara 65 pass from Wilber (Mahfood kick)
N — Mahfood 24 FG
CC — Bannister 43 FG
N — Mahfood 20 FG
CC — Bannister 34 FG
N — Kamara 1 run (Mahfood kick)
CC — Bobby Hill 9 pass from Daniel Mobley (Bannister kick)
N — Wilber 3 run (Mahfood kick)
CC — Todd Boyd 18 pass from Cole Segraves (Bannister kick)