The defending Class AAAAAA champion Norcross Blue Devils (12-2) won a defensive battle with Colquitt County (11-3) at home by a 14-9 count and advances to their second consecutive appearance in the finals. They will face the North Gwinnett Bulldogs (13-1) next Saturday night at the Georgia Dome to determine the 2013 AAAAAA champion. It will be the first time since 2002 that the finals will include members of the same region.
Norcross-14 Colquitt County-9
The Blue Devils defense set the tone for the night in the first half when they held Colquitt to four field goal attempts despite the fact that the Pack started four of their first six possessions on the Norcross side of the field. Putting up just nine first half points on four scoring opportunities fueled the Devils growing confidence, while at the same time having a demoralizing impact on the Colquitt offense.
While the Norcross D played “Lights out all night”, as Coach Keith Maloof said after the victory, the offense was inconsistent much of the night. The wet weather conditions, which resulted in delays in both the Norcross and North games, were a factor in the lack of offensive production. In combination with a wet, muddy field both offenses struggled to put together extended drives. Quarterback AJ Bush and the Norcross offense managed enough big plays to find the end zone twice, which was just enough to send the Devils to their second consecutive state championship game.
Bush provided the first of the big plays when he ran 50 yards before being brought down at the one-inch line, setting up a scoring plunge by James Keeling two plays later that gave Norcross their first lead of the night, 7-6, with 3:17 left in the half.
Before the intermission came, Colquitt again had to settle for a field goal, this one 30 yards, and the Packers went to the locker room holding a slim 2-point advantage, 9-7.
Colquitt got the ball to start the final 24 minutes and promptly drove to the Norcross 10 yard line, but once again was unable to capitalize and was forced to go for three, missing for the second time in the game to keep the score 9-7.
After exchanging a couple three-and-outs, Norcross started a drive on the Colquitt 47. Bush teamed up with University of Miami bound Chris Herndon on a quick slant that resulted in a 32 yard gain. The Blue Devils reached the Packer 6 yard line, but then faced a fourth and one. Coach Maloof decided to go for it and Norcross was stopped.
Colquitt was unable to build on the momentum and gave the ball back to Norcross on the Packer 46 after another three and out. The third quarter came to an end with the score unchanged.
Just 1:47 into the second half a lightening warning was issued and the game was delayed for 30 minutes. By the time the teams took the field the actual delay was closer to 40 minutes. The squads came out of the delay with noticeably different demeanors.
Norcross came out on fire while Colquitt seemed like they were beginning to tire. The Packers had the first possession following the resumption of play, but again were forced to punt after three plays. After another short kick, Norcross started their second scoring drive at the Packer 34. Josh Boyd took the snap from a wild cat formation and picked up 17 yards, and then Myles Autry scored on a 17 yard catch and run after starting to his left and then changing direction. It was a big run for Autry, who is recovering from an injury and showed with that cut on a wet, sloppy field that he is nearing full recovery. The Devils were up 14-9 with about eight minutes remaining in the game.
The teams exchanged scoreless possessions until Colquitt County arrived at their last possession to try to pull out a win. They started at the Norcross 48 with 48 ticks of the clock left.
The Norcross defense stepped up and forced a couple of incompletions, and then Jordan Noil secured the game by picking off a pass and returning it to the Packer 28.
Colquitt County: Sihiem King had 25 carries for 40 yards.
Norcross: AJ Bush totaled 113 yards on 14 carries.
Colquit County: Daniel Mobley was 12-of-24 for 101 yards and one interception.
Norcross: Bush was 6-of-13 for 67 yards and one TD.
Colquitt County: Ty Lee (2R, 56 yards) and Kiel Pollard (4R, 36 yards) were the Packers top receivers.
Norcross: Myles Autry (3R, 30 yards, 1 TD) and Herndon (3R, 37 yards) led the Devils receiving corps.
Packer kicker Jose Vega was successfully on three field goal attempts (34, 32 and 26 yards) while missing on two in the loss.
Watch for the Norcross, North Gwinnett Game Preview on Thursday
After a 3-0 week in the semifinals, Examiner is now 86-22 for the season in game projections and 23-5 in the playoffs.
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