The North Gwinnett Bulldogs were in danger of suffering their first loss of the season when they found themselves trailing Mill Creek last Friday by 19 points with about six minutes to go. At stake was the lead in Region 7-Class AAAAAA, as well as the No. 1 ranking for all classifications in Georgia. By the time the smoke had cleared, quarterback Hayden Sphire had led the Bulldogs to 22 unanswered points on the way to a 29 point quarter and a 50-47 comeback victory.
With a 106 QB Rating, Sphire is the top rated QB in Class-AAAAAA and has put up some impressive numbers while leading the Bulldogs to a 6-0 overall mark, 4-0 in region play. The senior signal caller has thrown for 1,362 yards in six games (an average of 227 yards per game), and his touchdown to interception ratio is nearly 3-to-1 (22 TDs, 8 INT). Sphire has 16 more passing scores than the next closest competitor, as well as being the only QB averaging more than 200 yards passing per game. Sphire took some time earlier this week to talk about the season, the region outlook and his future.
On the Bulldogs undefeated record after Week 8 action: “I knew we were good but didn’t expect to be where we are because there are five teams that could win state from our region.”
On his development as a leader: “I feel more comfortable now than last season, I have complete trust in my receivers and know where they are going to be. Last year I got quality reps, but didn’t get the majority of the time with the receivers in practice because it wasn’t my team.”
On playing for his father: “I like playing for him. We both know what the other is thinking when I’m on the field, and he gives me a lot of freedom.”
Coach Bob Sphire added that “Hayden has been around football from the inside since he was born and he sees things in front of him like an offensive coordinator would from the box,” and he went on to say that it is Hayden’s high football IQ that allows him “the freedom to kill or tweak plays based on what he sees on the field.” His coach says “His game management is better than most high school QBs, and that is proven by the number of times he changes the play and is right. That’s something those on the outside never know about”
On the region battle: “It’s going to be a dogfight. There are still five teams (Collins Hill, Norcross, North, Peachtree Ridge, Mill Creek) in the playoff mix, so we are focused on our next opponent-not looking ahead to the next game.”
On his football future: “Jacksonville State made an offer last week (reported October 14), and I am excited about that, but will not be making that decision now.”
With the season that both Sphire and the Bulldogs are putting together, it seems likely that there will be more offers coming. Arkansas State, Georgia Sate, Memphis and Middle Tennessee State are all schools of interests and with Sphire being one of only two national Top 30 pro-style quarterbacks still uncommitted, it is almost a certainty that interest will grow.
It should be pointed out that Sphire is compiling the stats he is against some of the top defenses and defensive players in the nation. Three of the top teams in the state are region rivals, and North Gwinnett opened their season against Camden County, the No. 7 team in the state, and Sphire threw for 206 yards and three scores against a defense that included Kalvaraz Bessent and Chris Williams in their secondary-both Alabama bound.
Related: Gwinnett Football Week 8 Recap
It is clear that despite being a first-year starter, Hayden Sphire not only has the physical tools needed to succeed at the next level, he has the intelligence and decision making ability as well.
Which of The Big Four in Region 7 (North Gwinnett, Norcross, Collins Hill and Peachtree Ridge) has the most success against the other three will win the region. So far, there have been three games between the Big Four. North Gwinnett is 1-0, Collins Hill and Norcross are each 1-1 and Peachtree Ridge is 0-1.
October 25th will see North Gwinnett play Collins Hill and Norcross take on Peachtree Ridge in the next battles between the Big Four.
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