By David Purdum / For the AJC
North Gwinnett looks primed for a playoff run, no matter who the Bulldogs’ quarterback is.
C.J. Leggett scored three touchdowns in the first quarter, and Carter Cross returned a fumble 58 yards for a score to fuel North Gwinnett’s 44-22 rout of Peachtree Ridge.
Junior quarterback John Urzua made his second straight start in place of injured starter Hayden Sphire. Sphire, one of the state’s top passers, injured his ankle two weeks ago in a loss to Collins Hill. Sphire warmed up with the team, but did not give it a go. It didn’t matter.
Urzua completed his first five attempts and directed a balanced attack, featuring Leggett and receivers Nate Brown and Caleb Scott. Urzua finished 17-of-24 for 234 yards with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brown in the third quarter. Scott had nine catches for 121 yards.
Leggett scored on runs of 8, 3 and 2 yards to put the Bulldogs up 20-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs (9-1, 7-1 7-AAAAAA)were all over Peachtree Ridge quarterback Chance Thrasher, who lost two fumbles in the first half. Down 23-0 early in the second quarter, Thrasher led the Lions (7-3, 5-3 7-AAAAAA)into North Gwinnett territory, but was sacked and fumbled. Cross scooped it up and sprinted to the end zone to make it 30-0.
Thrasher finished 16-of-28 for 155 yards.
Peachtree Ridge’s got a 1-yard touchdown run from Jordan Ellis right before halftime to somewhat hang around. Myron Burton’s juggling 50-yard reception set up Ellis’ touchdown. Ellis added a 23-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
The win sealed a share of the 7-AAAAAA Region title for the Bulldogs, their fourth region championship under coach Bob Sphire. If Collins Hill beats Mill Creek, North Gwinnett share the region championship with Collins Hill and Norcross. A coin flip was going to be held Friday night to determine the top three seeds out of the region, in case of a tie.
(Update: Norcross won the coin flip and will be the No. 1 seed out of the region. Collins Hill is the second seed, and North Gwinnett gets the third seed).
“I’m just proud of guys with another region championship for our program, whether it’s shared or not,” said Bob Sphire. “It’s all about the playoffs now.
Peachtree Ridge will be the fourth seed out of Region 7-AAAAAA.
North Gwinnett has won five straight over Peachtree Ridge.
Peachtree Ridge 0 7 0 15 — 20
North Gwinnett 20 10 14 0 — 44
N – C.J. Leggett 3 run (Michael D’Angola kick)
N – Leggett 2 run (run failed)
N – Leggett 8 run (D’Angola kick)
N – D’Angola 40 field goal
N – Carter Cross 58 fumble return (D’Angola kick)
P – Jordan Ellis 1 run (Evan Pantels kick)
N – Nate Brown 32 pass from John Urzua (D’Angola kick)
N – Dakari White 5 run (D’Angola kick)
P – Ellis 23 run (Pantels kick)
P – Devon Jones 24 pass from Connor Heyward (Na’ceem Antenor run)