North Gwinnett’s C.J. Leggett ran wild in Powder Springs for the second consecutive week, leading the top-ranked Bulldogs to a 27-21 victory over McEachern in the Class AAAAAA semifinals on Friday.
Leggett rushed for 292 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries for the Bulldogs, who overcame four turnovers and withstood a halftime break of close to an hour because of lightning in the area. In a 35-31 victory against Hillgrove in the quarterfinals last week, Leggett ran for 159 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries.
The victory sets up a rematch between North Gwinnett and Region 7-AAAAAA rival Norcross in the state championship game at the Georgia Dome next Saturday at 8:30 p.m. North Gwinnett won the regular-season game 36-17 on Sept. 13. The victory assures that a Gwinnett County team will win the AAAAAA title for the fourth consecutive season.
North Gwinnett became the first team in the highest classification to win four consecutive playoff games on an opponents’ home field to reach the final since 2008, when the semifinals were moved out of the Georgia Dome. The Bulldogs finished in a three-way tie for first place in the region but took the No. 3 seed after a coin flip with Norcross and Collins Hill.
McEachern trailed 14-7 at halftime but opened the third quarter with a 75-play drive in 10 plays to tie the score. Bailey Hockman capped the drive with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Trey Scott on a fourth-and-11 play.
But the Bulldogs regained the lead for good about five minutes later. After Tony Bradford intercepted a Hockman pass at the North Gwinnett 47, Leggett went 53 yards for the score on the next play at the 3:17 mark.
Michael D’Angola added two field goals in the fourth quarter to make it 27-14.
McEachern scored on a 7-yard pass from Hockman to Artise Clark with 2:33 remaining, but North Gwinnett recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out all but the final eight seconds.
North Gwinnett’s first turnover quickly put the Bulldogs in a 7-0 hole. Hayden Sphire’s pass on the first play from scrimmage was intercepted by McEachern’s Rahmoi Parsons, giving the Indians the ball at the North Gwinnett 26. On the next play, Ty Clemons threw a touchdown pass to T.J. Rahming for a 7-0 lead 19 seconds into the game.
North Gwinnett got a 3-yard run by Leggett to tie the score and took the halftime lead on a 3-yard pass from Sphire to Nate Brown with 11 seconds to play in the half.
North Gwinnett – 7-7-7-6 – 27
McEachern – 7-0-7-7 – 21
M – T.J. Rahming 26 pass from Ty Clemons (Dennis Dominguez kick)
NG – C.J. Leggett 3 run (Michael D’Angola kick)
NG – Nate Brown 2 pass from Hayden Sphire (D’Angola kick)
M – Trey Scott 38 pass from Bailey Hockman (Dominguez kick)
NG – Leggett 53 run (D’Angola kick)
NG – D’Angola 45 field goal
NG – D’Angola 25 field goal
M – Artise Clark 7 pass from Hockman (Dominguez kick)