Gwinnett High School Football Quarterfinal Preview

Dacular Football, photo by Sonny Kennedy

The quarterfinal round of the Georgia High School football playoffs are here and the county has five teams that will be involved in the action. North Gwinnett, Norcross, Collins Hill and Dacula are from Class 6A while Buford represents the county from 3A. Below are previews of each upcoming match-up.

North Gwinnett (11-1) at Hillgrove (11-1): Both teams starting quarterback are the sons of their head coach. Hayden Sphire, son of North Gwinnett head coach Bob Spihire, and Elijah Ironside, son of Hillgrove head coach Phil Ironside. North Gwinnett is in the quarterfinals for the sixth time under head coach Bob Sphire however, they are 1-4 in the quarterfinals during that time. The only victory came in 2007 when North Gwinnett advanced to and lost in the state championship game. The Bulldogs enter the game averaging 40.9ppg and allowing 18.0 ppga. Quarterback Hayden Sphire has passed for over 2,200 yards while running back CJ Leggett has rushed for over 1,200 yards this season. Defensive lineman Dante Sawyer passed for a touchdown in North Gwinnett’s 34-32 victory over Archer in the second round.

Hillgrove is in the quarterfinals for the second time in school history and lost their previous quarterfinal game to Brookwood in 2010. The Hawks are led by Elijah Ironside (over 2,400 yards passing) and running back Richarde Bagley (over 1,500 yards rushing this season). Wide receivers Justin Denton and Emmaunel Beal are top targets of Ironside.  Hillgrove averages 38ppg while allowing 20.2ppga. Hillgrove defeated Camden County in the second round becoming the first team to defeat Camden County at home twice since 2000. This will be the first meeting ever between these two teams.

McEachern (10-2) at Collins Hill (11-1): Collins Hill is averaging 39.9ppg and allowing 14.0ppga. The Eagles have flown under the radar most of the season but are now drawing interest nationally. Tyler Henderson and Tyler Herman are the leaders for the Collins Hill offense. Henderson has rushed for over 1,500 yards with 25TD while Herman has passed for over 2,700 yards with 32TD.

Since being shutout by Norcross, Collins Hills has scored 63, 53, 49, 45, 41 and 48 points in the six games since. The Eagles defeated their first two playoff opponents (Walton and Alpharetta) by a combined 89-7 score. McEachern started the season 7-0 and were considered a strong contender for the 6A title. Since then they have lost their starting quarterback Ty Clemmons to an ankle injury and turned to freshman Bailey Hockman- son of head coach Kyle Hockman.  Hockman engineered two touchdown drives in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter during McEachern’s 22-21 win over Langston Hughes to advance. The Indians are averaging 36.8ppg allowing 19.3ppga. Collins Hill and McEachern are meeting for the first time.

Lowndes (9-3) at Norcross (10-2):  Norcross has won nine consecutive games and have not allowed more than 20 points during that span. Running back Josh Boys has rushed for over 1,300 yards this season, but the biggest story for Norcross is their defense. Lorenzo Carter and Kevin Mouhon anchor the Blue Devils defense. Norcross is averaging 30.0ppg while allowing 13.8ppga

Lowndes is a run first triple-option team that averages 211.5ypg rushing and  used heavy ball control to defeat Lovejoy 23-18 in the second round. The Vikings are in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007. Lowndes is averaging 32.1ppg (they defeated Hardaway 87-0 during the regular season) while allowing 13.1ppg. Lowndes has six players that have rushed for over 200 yards this season although one of them, junior Ahman Brown is no longer on the team. Jerome Daniels is the Vikings leading rusher with 459 yards and 10 TD. Linebacker Tre Jackson is the anchor of the Lowndes defense with a team-leading 58 total tackles. Brian Bell is second with 53 total tackles.

Colquitt County (10-2) at Dacula (8-4): Dacula, after going 1-9 last year, is in the quarterfinals for the 12th time in school history. The Falcons are under first-year head coach Tommy Jones and are a run first team, averaging 24.0ppg while allowing 19.7ppga. Dacula rushed for nearly 300 yards in their victory over Peachtree Ridge and overcame a 21-14 deficit to win 28-21 shutting out Peachtree Ridge in the second half.

All Colquitt County does is win road playoff games. The Packers from Moultrie, GA are 12-3 in road playoff games since 1999 and seek their fifth consecutive semifinal appearance. Colquitt County soundly defeated North Cobb 52-6 on the road to and advance to the quarterfinals. The Packers have one of the best defensive lines in the nation with Jamiyus Pittman (44 tackles in only 7 games), Quint Hampton (17.5 sacks), Mike Parrish (138 tackles) and Alex Williams (59 tackles) on the line. Junior linebacker Bull Barge is the leading tackler with 175 total tackles and Colquitt has 40 sacks as a team.  Running back Sihiem King is the leading rush with over 1,300 yards and 16TD. Quarterback Gabe Mobley has passed for over 2,100 yards and his top targets at receiver are Kiel Pollard (637 yards) and Todd Boyd (443 yards). Dacula and Colquitt County have never met before.

Carver-Columbus (11-1) at Buford (12-0): This is beginning to become a rivalry. This will be the fifth meeting between these teams in the last four seasons with Buford holding a 3-1 advantage. Buford has been a machine this season averaging 51.0ppg while allowing only 6.0ppg and are the favorites to repeat as class 3A champions. The Wolves have scored 38 or more points in every game this season and have posted 60 or more points four times including 70 against East Hall.

Carver-Columbus’ only lost was to Colquitt County. Carver-Columbus allowed Jefferson County only 95 yards of total offense and shut them out in their second round victory. Carver is allowing 16.3ppga while putting up 36.0ppg. Quarterback Jawon Pass is the headline player for the Tigers

Joel Hillsman
Joel is a sports media freelancer covering high school and pro sports since 2009. He is play-by-play announcer and show host for high school football and basketball on NFHS Network covering the southeast and produces game highlights for NBA TV and Turner Sports.

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