Every Friday night, somewhere in the county, talent will be on display and solid football will be played. Of Gwinnett’s 23 schools with football teams, 22 play football under Friday night lights and those lights seem to shine brighter every year. The last three state titles at the highest classification have come from Gwinnett County and Buford has two in that time span as well.
Norcross Blue Devils
“Gwinnett is one of the top counties in the nation,” Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. “Week in and week out in this county anything can happen, I mean just look at what is in our region (Region 7) and the other region (Region 8) – it’s tough.”
Remind you, Maloof and his Norcross squad are the reigning 6A champions, but the truth is, just winning that region would equal a state title in other states. Lofty expectations are on the Blue Devils entering this season, with big name programs on the schedule (Booker T. Washington, FL), and many key players returning. The weight of a high preseason national ranking is ever-present.
Norcross lost some good players (Wilbur and Kamara included), however the Blue Devils may not miss a beat this year. All-World Myles Autry is back after playing and scoring a touchdown in last year’s championship game on a bummed-out knee. AJ Bush has game experience but must adjust to calling the signals of the Norcross offense. Lorenzo Carter makes recruiting services’ mouths water at his ability, while Kevin Mouhon leads the linebackers. It’s not football, however, without the boys on the offensive line and Norcross has everybody and then some returning up front.
“Jenkins, Wood, Aka, Northrup and a couple other guys are going to be big on our offensive line,” Maloof said. That line with the skills of Myles Autry is downright scary.
North Gwinnett Bulldogs
Just North of Norcross is region foe North Gwinnett. You can ask head coach Bob Sphire until you are blue in the face how he does it, and he will not say that “he’s a great coach.” We’ll say it for him – Sphire can coach high school football, period. Sphire is not just a coach, but a teacher and motivator.
Hayden Sphire will not be splitting quarterback duties this season and will have weapons upon weapons. Upfront Mitch Hyatt will anchor an offensive line that could see some shifting and moving before everything falls into place. Nate Brown and Caleb Scott will have help from some emerging talent in Daniel Immatorbhebhe and Almonzo Brown in the pass catching department.
The North Gwinnett defense was jolted over the summer with the loss of Mo Dixon to Byrnes (SC). However, it landed Robert Andrews from Grayson to coordinate the defense. Stephenson (Scrimmage), Camden County and Grayson are the opening games on the North Gwinnett schedule, and all primarily run the Wing-T offense, the same one Andrews has gone up against in practice most of his career at Grayson. A date with Norcross will finish out a very challenging start to the 2013 season for North Gwinnett.
Dante Sawyer is by now a household name on North Gwinnett’s defensive line. And Carter Cross and Bobby Young are expected to keep doing what they have always done, plus show improvement.
That is only two teams. Buford, Mill Creek, Grayson, Brookwood, Greater Atlanta Christian and Parkview are all solid teams that had good playoff runs last season. And Central Gwinnett and Archer may be waiting in the woods. If we’re not careful, we’ll have to name every team in the county – it is that good. Win the county and you just may win the state.