Class AAAAAA Title Game (Saturday 8:30 p.m.)
Norcross (12-2) vs. North Gwinnett (13-1)
Overview: Norcross and North Gwinnett are Region 7-AAAAAA rivals that have played each season since 2003, including a Sept. 13 game won 36-17 by North Gwinnett. This game ensures that a Gwinnett County team will be champion in the highest classification for the fourth straight season.
Norcross season: Ranked in the top 10 nationally in preseason, Norcross was embarrassed 55-0 in its nationally televised opener to B.T. Washington of Miami. Three weeks later, Norcross was shelled by North Gwinnett to fall to 1-2. Norcross since has won 11 straight while holding six playoff opponents to fewer than 10 points.
North Gwinnett: North Gwinnett handily defeated three reigning region champions (Camden County, Grayson, Norcross) to open the season to seize the No. 1 ranking. North was upset 53-28 to Collins Hill at midseason but has won six straight, including four playoff games on the road.
Norcross strength: Norcross has a 1,400-yard rusher (Josh Boyd) and dual-threat quarterback (A.J. Bush) but hangs its hat on perhaps the most talented, athletic defense in the state.
North Gwinnett strength: North Gwinnett’s spread offense has generated more than 3,000 yards passing and 2,000 yards rushing and averages 39.5 points per game.
Norcross’ top players: Norcross has 15 seniors likely to sign with Division 1 programs. They include DE Lorenzo Carter (rated the No. 1 defensive end nationally), LB Kevin Mouhon (Tennessee), DB Jordan Noil (Maryland), TE Chris Herndon (Miami), RB Josh Boyd (Appalachian State), DB Ridwan Issahaku, LB JaQuan Frazier and QB A.J. Bush.
North Gwinnett’s top players: Nate Brown (Missouri) and Caleb Scott are probably the best pair of wide receivers in the state, each with right at 1,000 yards receiving. DE Dante Sawyer is a four-star recruit. Mitch Hyatt is rated the top junior offensive lineman in Georgia. RB C.J. Leggett and QB Hayden Sphire also are D-1 recruits.
On Norcross: ‘’Their team speed on defense is so good at every position. You might see a weakness, but they cover it with their athleticism. On offense, their running back is very good, but you have to keep the quarterback hemmed up and force them to throw it. Not that he can’t make the plays, but that’s not their first love.’’ – Peachtree Ridge coach Mark Fleetwood, whose team lost 24-20 to Norcross on Oct. 25.
On North Gwinnett: ‘’What worries about North is the system they have, the way they play together as team. It starts offensively and the tempo they set. The defensive and special teams feed off that. They distribute the ball to so many people. If one thing isn’t working, they find something else and stay on track.’’ – Peachtree Ridge coach Mark Fleetwood, whose team lost 44-22 to North Gwinnett on Nov. 8.
AJC pick: North Gwinnett 21, Norcross 17