North Gwinnett became the first No. 1 team in Class AAAAAA to defend it ranking successfully this season with its 36-17 victory over Norcross.
The Bulldogs trailed 14-0 on the road but dominated most of the final three quarters. Hayden Sphire threw four touchdown passes, all to Nate Brown.
What’s the story with Norcross? Nobody should given up on what is probably the most talented roster in AAAAAA, but it’s hard to figure how a team that returns 16 starters from a 15-0 team can be handled pretty easily twice.
This is a little unlike 2012 Grayson, which returned a similar talent from a 15-0 team last year. Grayson remained a dominant team, except twice when it made multiple turnovers. This Norcross is not close to last season’s form. Not yet.
Other topics that emerged from Friday:
- Should Region 1 teams schedule a Savannah opponent again? Region 1 powerhouses Lowndes and Camden County played smaller Savannah schools in non-region games Friday, and the scores were ugly. Lowndes beat Windsor Forest 87-0, and Camden County beat Beach 91-6. Did they run up the score? Let’s not say that. Five freshmen scored touchdowns for Camden. But can’t they find somebody more competitive to play? It is that hard?
- Can Archer win Region 8? Archer, a 4-year-old school in Lawrenceville, avenged a heart-breaking 2012 loss and beat Brookwood 25-20 to improve to 3-0 in a pivotal Region 8 game. Brookwood is 0-3 for the first time since 1986. Archer will settle for making the playoffs, but this team is thinking championship at the moment.
- Did anyone doubt Grayson? An 0-2 start (losses to No. 1 North Gwinnett and No. 3 Colquitt County) doesn’t mean Grayson isn’t the team to beat in Region 8. The Rams avenged a 2012 loss and beat Parkview 34-10. Grayson is 44-4 in Region 8 since 2008. This is a team that replaced 21 starters, but the talent is there to get back to the top, especially with no ranked team at the moment in the region.
– What happened to North Cobb? North Cobb made the semifinals in 2012 and returned its quarterback, preseason all-state Tyler Queen. The offense didn’t get going Friday. Walton, on the brink of its first 0-3 start since 1988, upset the Warriors 28-13 as sophomore Karekin Brooks had 46 carries for 228 yards and scored three touchdowns. Walton takes pride in its defense, and last season’s 49-17 beating to North Cobb wasn’t easy to take.
- Who makes the Top 10 now? No. 10 Marietta was ranked for the first time since 2007 but failed to validate it. Hillgrove beat the Blue Devils in a Region 4 game 21-13. Richardre Bagley scored all three of Hillgrove’s touchdowns. Hillgrove (3-0) has avenged losses to Lassiter and Marietta. So Norcross, North Cobb and Marietta each lost. Should we have three new Top 10 teams? The top undefeated contenders to replace them, if three are spit out, are Hillgrove, Valdosta, Coffee and Archer.