Class AAAAAA championship: Norcross 31, North Gwinnett 14

Myles Autry returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown to help Norcross climb out of an early 14-0 hole and then supplied the knockout punch with a 69-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter to lead the Blue Devils to a 31-14 victory over top-ranked North Gwinnett in the Class AAAAAA football championship game Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

Norcross (13-2) became the first team to win back-to-back championships in the highest class since Camden County in 2008 and 2009 and the first from Gwinnett County to do it since the 2000-2002 Parkview dynasty. The Blue Devils’ two titles also extended Gwinnett’s streak to four straight in the classification, following championships by Brookwood in 2010 and Grayson in 2011.

The victory avenged Norcross’ 36-17 loss to its 7-AAAAAA rival on Sept. 13 that dropped the Blue Devils to 1-2. They finished the season with 12 consecutive wins.

Autry provided the spark in a Norcross championship-game victory for the second straight season. Last year, his 11-yard touchdown reception began an 18-point, fourth-quarter rally in a 21-14 victory over Lovejoy.

This time, the first touchdown came earlier but the swing in momentum was no less significant. Norcross had just 22 yards of total offense in its first three possessions and trailed 14-0 a little more than 10 minutes into the game, but Autry’s return got the Blue Devils back into it.

Blue Devils quarterback A.J. Bush, in particular, came alive in the second quarter. After completing just two of four passes for 13 yards in the first quarter and throwing two interceptions in the game’s first 16 minutes, he finished the half 11-for-14 for 112 yards. His 34-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Clinton Lynch down the left sideline, and his pass to Lynch on the following two-point conversion, tied the game 14-14 with 4:19 to play in the half.

Blake Bingham’s 32-yard field goal midway through the third quarter turned out to be the game-winning points. Bush gave Norcross a 24-14 lead with a 4-yard touchdown run later in the quarter, and his 69-yard pass to Autry in the fourth put the game away. Bush finished 17-of-23 passing for 303 yards. The Blue Devils were held to 47 yards rushing on 30 carries.

North Gwinnett (13-2) scored two touchdowns in a 1:10 span late in the first quarter to take a 14-0 lead. The first came on Hayden Sphire’s 5-yard pass to Nate Brown to cap North Gwinnett’s best drive of the game. The Bulldogs went 69 yards in seven plays for the score.

On the first play of Norcross’ next possession, an interception by Dante Sawyer gave the Bulldogs the ball back at the Norcross 21. Two plays later, Sphire threw 20 yards to Caleb Scott for a 14-0 lead with 1:40 to play in the quarter.

North Gwinnett’s C.J. Leggett, who rushed for 100 or more yards four times during the regular season, reached the milestone for the fifth consecutive playoff game. He ran for 106 yards Saturday and finished with 1,734 for the season and 840 in the playoffs.

Sphire completed 20 of 41 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns but threw four interceptions, although two of them came after the outcome was settled. Norcross outgained the Bulldogs 303-186.

North Gwinnett – 14-0-0-0 – 14

Norcross – 6-8-10-7 – 31

NG – Nate Brown 5 pass from Hayden Sphire (Michael D’Angola kick)

NG – Caleb Scott 20 pass from Sphire (D’Angola kick)

N – Myles Autry 92 kickoff return (kick failed)

N – Clinton Lynch 34 pass from A.J. Bush (Lynch pass from Bush)

N – Blake Bingham 32 field goal

N – Bush 4 run (Bingham kick)

N – Autry 69 pass from Bush (Bingham kick)

153 comments Add your comment

Camden74

December 15th, 2013
12:55 am

Congratulations Norcross Blue Devils and Fans! Back to back Georgia Class AAAAAA Football State Champions…….. :-)

Suwanee 0wns

December 15th, 2013
1:04 am

Congratulations to Norcross on a great season and a second State Championship.

It was good to see Myles Autry return to form and spark the entire team on an unanswered blizzard of 31 points. Norcross speed by DBs and Receivers made a citical difference that North could not overcome.

6 interceptions (I think) did not help either.

Maloof coached a fantastic game. He had a plan, and it worked. Blue Devils did many of the little things right, like down field blocks to improve “Yards after Catch” by the receivers. And Bush delivered several TD passes right on the money after a receiver got a step or two of separation.

It is very difficult to win back to back Championships unless you have a team that is just better than the competition.

Well done Blue Devils.

Football Dad

December 15th, 2013
1:09 am

Can someone please tell me I didn’t hear the announcer say Norcross had 60 seniors. Wow, and the state is looking at Grady high school.

Steve Lennen

December 15th, 2013
1:15 am

Enter your comments here

Football Dad

December 15th, 2013
1:15 am

Congrats Norcross and all the other high schools those seniors came from. I think a great athlete from every high school in Gwinnett Co.won a 6AAAAAA Title tonight.

Steve Lennen

December 15th, 2013
1:18 am

Congrats to the Blue Devils from a fellow alumni. I played corner back for Norcross 30 years ago and you made me proud!

RobFromNorcross

December 15th, 2013
1:38 am

Unbelievable season follows unbelievable season… Just got back from the Dome, couldn’t be prouder of my son and the Norcross team. What a defense, and AJ had his best night passing at the right time.

And Football Dad, you don’t know what you are talking about so just put a sock in it. Whining is such a poor sport thing to do… I know this team and the vast majority have been playing together for 5 years…

Will85

December 15th, 2013
1:41 am

Hey where is bozo the clown lol mr bulldawgstillbites at lol!!!!! B2B STATE CHAMPS!!!!!

Mike

December 15th, 2013
1:47 am

Congratulations to Norcross HS! Great job.

Fred

December 15th, 2013
1:49 am

@Rob, Haters gonna hate! The game I saw tonight was even until the half and Norcross made the better adjustment. In spite of turning the ball over 3 times in the NG end zone, Norcross controlled the game in a big way. I couldn’t believe those longs passes by Bush. Both of them were 55 yards in the air and really went further than that as they crossed the field. It was very impressive. There were way too many turnovers by both teams. There were several pass interference calls that were interesting to say the least but I really don’t think they impacted the game. I thought it would be a 3-7 point game so I was surprised at the spread. It was a game well worth the price of admission for sure.

HIGH 5

December 15th, 2013
4:56 am

I wonder if Norcross played Booker T. Washington now would the same thing happen?

NORTH END CAT

December 15th, 2013
5:05 am

HIGH 5, maybe not as bad, but yep, same thing.

flboyz

December 15th, 2013
5:27 am

The state of GA could makeup their best allstar team & spot Booker T. Washington 21 & STILL get beat by 31.

BulldogsStillBite

December 15th, 2013
6:58 am

Congrats to Norcross, your guys made the plays when it mattered to most last night. The missing link turned out to be none other than Miles Autry….but your defense played lights out after the first quarter! They took the bite from the Bulldog…crow tastes like chicken with a little tabasco on it…LOL. Until next year – all the best, Merry Christmas to all!!!!

Sugar Hill Dawg

December 15th, 2013
7:17 am

Last night brought back unpleasant memories…domination in the championship game by a superior team, but at least this time I didn’t drive four hours soaking wet afterwards. Congratulations to Norcross on their victory and a heartfelt thanks to everyone connected to the North Gwinnett program – unbelievable ride!! Merry Christmas to all!

N. Fulton

December 15th, 2013
7:26 am

Well, Norcross did when, so congrats to that program. However, it is like watching the Milton Basketball program a few years ago, only a few from the area are actually the ones leading the way.

Where did AJ play QB last year? Oh yeah, he was the Milton QB……stop with the non-sense of the team has been together for 5 years, just sounds stupid. Take your win and be happy your program has enough “juice” to get kids to want to play there, regardless of their actual home.

tacklemom

December 15th, 2013
8:01 am

My son played for Norcross and they are a great group of coaches and players. It is a No cut team so ANY and all are welcome….. they have great camaraderie and brotherhood. At times they have a hundred players on the roster….

Do people move to Norcross to join this team? or any of the other athletic teams that won the State last year? (I think like five different teams) you bet. When you win state championships and are nationally ranked, people can see you are doing something right….

People also move to Norcross for the outstanding academics including the International Baccalaureate . Program and a huge selection of Advanced placement classes. They were highlighted in Atlanta Magazine for the extraordinary programs to help students be successful….
So, you can get a great education AND join our great athletic teams.

stooge

December 15th, 2013
8:09 am

Don’t care how many times Norcross rang our bell or will keep ringing it in the future; they are a class act. It’s just good to see that much skill on one team driven by dedication and one hell of a coaching staff. You guys earned it so “Huzzah!” from the Deep South.

PROUD NORCROSS FAN

December 15th, 2013
8:14 am

Football Dad I know you have the lemon face this morning but dont’t TRY to start talking about something you know NOTHING about! Just to catch you up to speed we HAD nearly 60 juniors on the team last year BEFORE we won last year’s CHAMPIONSHIP! Now since you SEEM kind of slow let me tell you how that works. Since they were NORCROSS juniors last year they are NORCROSS senior this year! Can you name any player that touched the field last night that was not at NORCROSS last year besides Bush or Boyd? NO YOU CAN’T! BACK2BACK!

@NFulton please read message above! Oh believe we are happy with our WIN just like I know your sad with your LOSS! BOY THE HATE CONTINUES! BACK2BACK!

Devillover

December 15th, 2013
8:15 am

Congrats Blue Devils!The pundits said it could not be done but you did it…repete! The Devils beat a good team and excellent program. I thinks the keys for the Cross were speed, tackling, passing (300 yds) and pass blocking. Also, I am glad Norcross’ fans did not do a lot of talking before the game but let the players take care of business on the field!

Colquitt Supporter

December 15th, 2013
9:14 am

Congratulations Norcross. You guys earned the championship. I know you are proud of your players.

68 Viking

December 15th, 2013
9:24 am

great game to both teams its awfully difficult thing to do back 2 back championships congrats to norcross I was pulling for NG simply because they have been there so often and came up short. Both teams played their hearts out. To both thanks for a great game. NG your day is coming just keep looking forward. This loss will serve u well in learning how to deal with adversity. In my book all the kids on both teams are winners in life. Now we all get to hit the resit button and prepare for next years season. merry christmas and happy new year to all, Thanks again kids u made a whole lot of old folks lives that much more enjoyable

Playoff Vet

December 15th, 2013
9:33 am

congratulations Norcross. You made Gwinnett proud last night. The better team won and it wasn’t close. The magic ran out for a NG team that overachieved all season long and the long run of luck just finally ran out for Sphire and his boys. It was striking to see just how much better Norcross was than NG. Faced with an opponent that was focused and more athletic the play calling seemed almost futile for the North skill players with the exception of Legget kid who is a one and done. It will be interesting to see where both these programs are next year with seniors gone that started in the dome. Great game. Norcross clearly the class of this game.

hit a single

December 15th, 2013
9:44 am

Aquinas vs. Calvary Day, Buford vs.Washington Co., Lovett vs. Lamar Co., Norcross vs. North Gwinnett, Creekside vs. Tucker, Marion Co. vs. Charlton Co. and Carrolton vs. Griffin. Nine of these schools come from high populated areas and you could throw Carrolton in there. It is not public vs. private, it is populated areas vs. the non-populated areas. Don’t know what the answer is but many schools athletes go in cycles where the high populated areas can have athletes every year. A public school like Buford has the same advantages as the private schools, heck they should win every year.

JAB

December 15th, 2013
9:46 am

CONGRATULATIONS TO NORCROSS & NORTH GWINNETT ON A GAME WELL PLAYED, I WATCHED IT IN IT’S ENTIRETY, HAVE A GOOD OFF SEASON & HOLIDAYS. GOD BLESS…!!!

hit a single

December 15th, 2013
9:50 am

Also, I saw many guys over the weekend that played the game with alot of heart. UGA needs that type of player (David Pollock type) and quit worrying about how many stars these recruits have and start considering ones by how big their heart is.

randomity

December 15th, 2013
10:19 am

NORCROSS ALL THE WAYYY
-it was pretty obvious we were gonna win
#bluedevilnation!!

AVikingFan

December 15th, 2013
10:24 am

RobfromNorcross. – And all the Norcross fans, players, and coaches! Congrats on your big win. 31-14, wow! A 17 point win over NG, again, WOW! I felt really bad when Norcross beat Lowndes by 21. Watching Norcross do what they did last night kinda made me feel a little better bout my team.

Cherish the win and season. Very few teams “repeat.” It takes a special group of kids and coaches.

Grayram

December 15th, 2013
10:24 am

Congrats Norcross. Great accomplishment going back to back.

Mighty Mighty Wildcats

December 15th, 2013
10:42 am

Grats to Norcross.
Also, all u guys beating up on Football Dad……..slow ur rolls. If u think ur program is clean, it probably is, but if u think these coaches in elite programs aren’t getting single moms with elite athletes jobs and rental houses in their districts mite want to educate yourselves. As a Valdosta alum, trust me and believe. IT HAPPENS!

Sportsnut

December 15th, 2013
10:53 am

Congratulations to Norcross for a well deserved victory. This game was not as close as the score indicates. If not for shooting themselves in the foot several times, the score would be worse. Congrats to North Gwinnett on a fine season.

Sportsnut

December 15th, 2013
10:56 am

It is quite hard for some to accept 66 seniors on a team. When you have 160 in your program, it is not unheard of. Many teams don’t have 66 players period. This was clearly an advantage for Norcross to have that amount of leadership.

PROUD NORCROSS FAN

December 15th, 2013
11:02 am

@Mighty Mighty Wildcats- Didn’t say it doesn’t happen so no need to educate myself on something that I already know. I know it happens! It happens in football, basketball, track & yes even cheerleading! And it happens at A LOT OF SCHOOLS that have stellar programs!

CollinsHillFan25

December 15th, 2013
11:15 am

Definitely wasn’t the North team most of us from region 7 were used to seeing. The pressure must’ve gotten to them. It WAS however definitely the Norcross team we’re used to. Shows how competitive region 7 can be. Great representation of Gwinnett schools and specifically our region. Congrats to Norcross.

realisticfan

December 15th, 2013
11:19 am

Congratulations to Norcross. But realistically this shows how big a gap there is between our best team in Georgia and Florida’s top ranked teams after their team beat Norcrosss by about 50

hit a single

December 15th, 2013
11:26 am

It is not public vs. private, it is populated vs. non-populated. It is time somebody has the guts to say it and do something about it. The only rural schools there were Marion Co. and Charlton Co.

Zone3canE

December 15th, 2013
11:29 am

Personally, I’m glad The Metro ALL-STARS(Norcross) won. Their victory last night without question solidifies a team that is a real representation and all around reflection of their community(OVERTOWN) the MIAMI BOOKER T. WASHINGTON TORNADOES as the #1 TEAM IN THE COUNTRY and NATIONAL CHAMPION. The only TRUE CHAMPIONS in the state of Georgia are CREEKSIDE and GRIFFIN. Hopefully their victories will inspire people in the city of ATLANTA, South DeKalb, and the entire South Metro to be the next CREEKSIDE or GRIFFIN or on an even bigger scale the next MIAMI BOOKER T., who destroyed the best ASSEMBLED team in 6A, 55- ZERO! Tucker moves to 6A next year and will blend right in with the METRO ALL-STARS. Tucker’s slogan is WE ARE TUCKER!…..BUT WE ALL LIVE IN SOUTH DeKalb! How does a city with a African-American population of about 17% field a team that’s 98% African-American? Thank you to the team PUT TOGETHER whose jerseys say NORCROSS and congratulations to the REAL CHAMPIONS, MIAMI BOOKER T. WASHINGTON, CREEKSIDE and THE MIGHTY BEARS of GRIFFIN! This was a truly great year of high school football!

CollinsHillFan25

December 15th, 2013
11:47 am

To be fair, Norcross has developed a lot over the season since that embarrassing loss to BookerT. I’m sure if they were to play now the results would be a closer game. Corky Kelp does a bad job of representing schools since it’s basically just a preseason friendly. A lot can change over the course of the season. Norcross went from being 1-2 to becoming state champs. (with our help of course lol)

Patrick

December 15th, 2013
11:49 am

RfmN in response to “FootballDad” says “the vast majority have been playing together 5 years”. An article just the other day in the AJC said the QB was new, and at least one RB. Seems the “main cogs” are transfers to the school. It’s the “Buford Syndrome”, lose some, load up, lose some, load up, and on it goes in Gwinnett County. BTW, the actual 6A championship game was played last week, Norcross-Colquitt Co., 14-9. That’s a state finals score not 31-14.

Fred

December 15th, 2013
12:22 pm

@N. Fulton – The QB at Norcross lost his permissive transfer and had to play at the school where he lives. Guess what? HE LIVES IN THE NORCROSS DISTRICT! Jeepers at all the people that pound on him for transferring when he had to.

CollinsHillFan25

December 15th, 2013
12:25 pm

@Patrick Not every Gwinnett team does this. Collins Hill definitely doesn’t. We take what we have and develop it and we’re still a dominate force. In fact, I’m almost certain no other school in our region does it.

Puzzled HS football fan in Gwinnett

December 15th, 2013
12:28 pm

I’ve attended championship Saturday with my son every year for the last 5-6 years, and we always leave the Dome late at night amazed at the talent in this state, and last night was no exception. The first half of the 4A game was probably the most entertaining 24 minutes of HS football I’ve watched in 10 years. But the last 3 quarters of the 6A game might have been the most puzzling and painful I’ve seen, and I’m honestly not a fan of either team. Is it just me, or was N Gwinnett’s offensive strategy the most vanilla and predictable mess imaginable? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, right? So let me sum up the Bulldogs’ attack plan: 1st down- jam CJ Leggitt up the middle for 2 yards. 2nd down- throw a slow-developing wide receiver screen (to the right side every time, btw) that loses 3 yards. 3rd and 10 or 11- throw a deep fade down the sideline and pray for pass interference. If that’s the best N Gwinnett’s coaching staff can come up with, they didn’t belong in this game. I know Norcross has loads of talent, but give your team a chance to win, man! We actually left midway through the 4th quarter because I was tired of watching the same futility over and over- the game was won handily by then. Congrats to Norcross on the back-to-back, and someone please tell the NG staff to go to some clinics or something next summer- yeesh.

GoState

December 15th, 2013
12:31 pm

@Zone3canE I’m sorry, I though Tucker got blown out in their game…. How will they come in and compete with the powerhouses in AAAAAA? Your smack talk really doesn’t carry any weight when a team hangs 52 points on you in the championship….

Fred

December 15th, 2013
12:32 pm

I was at the first Norcross game this season and the last. I told my wife at the time that as bad as it looked, the team just needed more time and more game reps to come together and get their timing and confidence. Check my blog posts from that game and you will see that. They had the athletes all along but needed the playing time together.

For all the haters and sour grape eaters out there, if you believe that the first game means that BTW could win like that again at the end of the season or that it means that FL football is so much better than GA, you really need to wake up and look around. BTW *might* win again, I can’t really say. I can say the score would not be the same.

MADDBALL

December 15th, 2013
12:33 pm

good job norcross on back 2 back titles,,gotta give credit 2 yall on a great season ,also to NG hang in there yall day is coming just like the PACKERS..great game…GOOOOO pack

Fred

December 15th, 2013
12:37 pm

@Patrick – There were several hard fought games last week that could claim to be the championship game. Unfortunately they weren’t and the game last night was. It was a hard fought game from both teams and not a blowout or cake walk for Norcross. I hate it for you that the Packers for all the progress they have made haven’t made that final step yet but until they do, the last game the Packers play each year isn’t the game that woulda, coulda, shoulda been the championship game.

Winning Brings Hate

December 15th, 2013
12:42 pm

People are focusing on Norcross because they are winning. It goes on at all winning programs. The coaches don’t recruit. The kids see a winning program and want to be a part of it. Sometimes it’s the players themselves seeing a void on their team and reaching out to a friend telling them to come play with them. It happens all over Gwinnett. North Gwinnett’s RB transferred into NG this year, but everyone isn’t making a big deal about that. There was an article in the GDP earlier this year about all of the playing that transferred in to Gwinnett schools. Also, it’s not all about sports. Parents transfer there kids from school to school because of academic and other reasons and those kids never touch a field or court of any kind.

If you want to keep hating on Norcross because two kids transferred in this year…go ahead.

They came for rings and they got them.

Mission accomplished.

RobFromNorcross

December 15th, 2013
12:45 pm

You gotta see Coach Maloof’s postgame victory talk and “dance” at the GA Dome locker room…

http://www.gwinnettprepsports.com/videos/2013/dec/15/547/

Zone3canE

December 15th, 2013
1:12 pm

@GoState, I’m sorry you didn’t comprehend what I was saying, but Tucker is just like Norcross they will reload with a bunch of kids from SOUTH DeKalb like they’ve been doing since the 90’s when KEITH MALOOF(BIG SURPRISE!) was head coach of that NORTH DeKalb high school. Class size means nothing(BOOKER T. HAS LESS THAN 1000 STUDENTS) but your school has a large population. Just because your school has over 3000 students and 60 seniors(85% of these SENIORS NEVER TOUCHED THE FIELD!) doesn’t mean your school produces 3000 guys who can actually contribute and play. If this were TRUE large schools like NORCROSS and TUCKER would not head to SOUTH DeKalb, THE CITY, and THE SOUTH METRO AREA to get the difference makers or as we refer to them THE PLAYMAKERS, they would build from within like CREEKSIDE and GRIFFIN have done.

hit a single

December 15th, 2013
1:40 pm

Congratulations Norcross. GHSA please consider starting the games on Friday at 1:00 and on Saturday at 10:30.