The cities of Powder Springs and Suwanee faced off in two of the state’s best football games in the quarterfinals. They split 1-1, each scoring the winning points in the final two minutes.
They’ll go at it again in a rubber game and semifinal next week as North Gwinnett (Suwanee) plays McEachern (Powder Springs) at a home field to be determined by a coin flip.
That game, or even the coin flip, will be hard-pressed to match the suspense of the quarterfinals.
North Gwinnett beat McEachern’s closest Cobb County neighbor, Hillgrove, 35-31 on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Sphire to Daniel Imatorbhebhe with 1:13 left. Entering the game, Imatorbhebhe had been a solid fourth receiver but with only one of North Gwinnett’s 40 touchdown passes.
McEachern beat Collins Hill 35-32 on an 85-yard punt return by Taj Griffin with 1:00 left. Collins Hill had come from 28-10 down to lead.
Both winning teams then intercepted passes near the goal line in the final 10 seconds to clinch their victories.
Other story lines from the AAAAAA quarterfinals:
- No. 1 in perseverance – The No. 1 ranking in the regular season was shared by Norcross, North Gwinnett and Colquitt County. All lost the top ranking at some point. All three made the semifinals, as did McEachern, which got as high as No. 2 after a 7-0 start, only to be bounced from the Top 10 altogether after a 1-2 finish.
- At home on the road – Colquitt County became the first team in history to reach the semifinals five straight times in the highest class with a 42-17 victory over Dacula. Colquitt has won 13 road playoff games in the past five years, as many as any other school over the past 25 years. The Packers will travel to Norcross next week.
- Clues from the Kell – The last three games of the season-opening Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome were won by North Gwinnett, Colquitt County and McEachern. Each is now one victory from returning to the Dome for the championship game Dec. 14. Several eventual state champions have won their openers at the Kell Classic, including Brookwood in 2010 and Grayson in 2011.