Michael D’Angola kicked a 27-yard field goal with seven seconds left to lift North Gwinnett to a 34-32 victory over Archer in the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
The Bulldogs overcame a 20-7 deficit with 24 unanswered points to take a 31-20 third-quarter lead. But Archer scored two consecutive touchdowns for a 32-31 lead with seven minutes left in the game. After a bad snap, D’Angola missed a 29-yard field with 2:29 left. But Archer was unable to get a first down and punted, giving the ball back to North at midfield with 1:18 remaining. Facing a second-and-eight, quarterback Hayden Sphire rolled right and threw back across his body to Nate Brown for a 33-yard reception to set up the game-winning field goal two plays later. This snap was good and the kick was perfect. North was moving on.
North, the No. 3 seed from Region 7, improves to 11-1. Archer, the top seed from Region 8, suffers its first loss and ends a historic season at 11-1. North will play Hillgrove in the quarterfinals.
North took its first lead of the game, 21-20, on its first drive of the second half on a 38-yard run by C.J. Leggett, who ran for a game-high 158 yards on 23 carries. After a D’Angola field goal, Sphire, playing on a bum leg, hit Caleb Scott for a 15-yard touchdown. Scott caught seven balls for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
Archer, in just its fifth year, fought gamely, but 13 penalties and two turnovers hurt their cause. Gabe Tiller threw for 286 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown to Connor Redmond that gave the Tigers the 32-31 lead. Dylan Singleton also scored three touchdowns for the Tigers, who got their first playoff win last week.
Archer controlled most of the play in the first half and held a 20-7 lead and possession with less than a minute remaining. But Parker Seachrest intercepted a Tiller pass and returned it to the Tigers’ 32 yard line. On second down, Sphire scrambled and found Scott for a 19-yard touchdown to trim the lead to 20-14.
Archer took the opening kick and drove 80 yards in 13 plays, scoring on a 18-yard pass from Tiller to K.J. Parmer. North tied the score with some trickery from Sphire. Lined up near the goal line in a jumbo set, lineman Dante Sawyer took a handoff and completed a jump pass to Daniel Imatorbhebhe for a 4-yard touchdown.
Singleton scored touchdown runs on consecutive drives to give Archer the 20-7 lead. The Tigers, looking much like the quick-tempo spread offense that coach Bob Sphire brought to Gwinnett years ago, attacked the visiting Bulldogs. Tiller completed 15 of 21 passes for 194 yards in the half, including seven for 80 yards to Parmer. North, which entered the game averaging 41 points a game, had just 29 yards passing before halftime.
Archer – 7 – 13 – 6 – 6 – 32
North Gwinnett – 7 – 7 – 17 – 3 – 34
A – K.J. Parmer 18 pass from Gabe Tiller (Michael Frye kick)
NG – Daniel Imatorbhebhe 4 pass from Dante Sawyer (Michael D’Angola kick)
A – Dylan Singleton 2 run (Frye kick)
A – Singleton 6 run (kick failed)
N – Caleb Scott 19 pass from Hayden Sphire (D’Angola kick)
N – C.J. Leggett 38 run (D’Angola kick)
N – D’Angola 30 FG
N – Scott 15 pass from Sphire (D’Angola kick)
A – Singleton 10 pass from Tiller
A – Connor Redmond 36 pass from Tiller (pass failed)
N – D’Angola 27 FG