0
Votes

North, Peachtree Ridge meet again for Region 7 title

In his more than 30 years of football experience, Mark Fleetwood has been in some pretty big ball games.

The first-year Peachtree Ridge head coach played for South Carolina's Gator Bowl teams in the early 1980s. He later coached Jacksonville State to the Division II national championship game in 1989.

Those are pretty substantial games in the grand scheme of football. Fleetwood thinks tonight's matchup at North Gwinnett ranks right up there.

"This is as important as any because it's where you are right now," Fleetwood said. "To these kids and what it means and the success, to me it's as big as any game I've ever played in or coached in."

No. 7 North Gwinnett and No. 10 Peachtree Ridge are both 8-1 and undefeated in Region 7-AAAAA. The winner of tonight's game, which will be shown state-wide on Georgia Public Broadcasting, will win the region title heading into next week's state playoffs.

"Let me tell you, in Georgia AAAAA football a chance to win a region title is special," North head coach Bob Sphire said. "It's high school football in a great state. Even to be able to compete in this, that means a lot."

North Gwinnett is seeking its third straight region title. The Bulldogs have won 21 straight region games, dating back to a 2008 loss to Peachtree Ridge in the regular-season finale.

"To me, North is one of the top teams in the state of Georgia. Period," Fleetwood said. "I don't care about rankings or what year, I think they are always very well coached."

North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge began the season with losses in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome.

Since then they've each reeled off eight straight victories to reach tonight's Region 7-AAAAA championship game.

They've dodged some close games along the way -- North rallied from a 22-point second half deficit to beat Norcross and Peachtree Ridge beat Collins Hill on a 33-touchdown in the game's final minute.

"That probably helped them a lot and believing in themselves," Fleetwood said of North. "It's those type of games, like the Collins Hill game for us, you need those types of games to get over the hump."

The Bulldogs have relied on a smothering defense, while Peachtree Ridge has made big plays offensively with a variety of playmakers.

Billy Best is one of the top quarterbacks in the county this season, throwing for more than 1,500 yards and 10 TDs. Running back DiAndre Atwater missed last week's game with an ankle injury, but is expected to play tonight. Joe Horn and Ahmad Harris are two of the county's leading receivers.

"Wow. All I can say is wow. They've got some players. They have 8 to 10 that can make plays," Sphire said. "Their quarterback is really playing well and seems to be throwing it well. They can hurt you running and throwing."

North Gwinnett has built one of the state's top defenses. The Bulldogs are only allowing 188.2 yards a game. Defensive linemen Jordan Washington (Mississippi State commit) and Justin Alabi, and linebackers Carl Rider (Furman commit), Steven Burger and Justin Thomas lead the group.

"It's a pressure defense. They are going to play as fast as any team we've played," Fleetwood said. "Athleticly, if you go down every position, they're as good as anybody we've played."

North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge met for the region title in 2008 and 2009. The Lions missed the postseason last year and Fleetwood was promoted to head coach in the winter. He knew he inherited a talented team, but this year's success has caught him a little off guard. He hopes it can continue tonight and through the playoffs.

"I'm surprised, I guess," Fleetwood said. "You want to win and that's what we've done. At this point, we want to win the next one."

For more stories on these schools, visit www.gwinnettprepsports.com/north and www.gwinnettprepsports.com/peachtreeridge.

Comments

NGHS09 2 years, 5 months ago

"They've dodged some close games along the way -- North rallied from a 22-point second half deficit to beat Norcross and Peachtree Ridge beat Collins Hill on a 33-touchdown in the game's final minute."

NG has only been in one close game and you listed it. In the other seven NG has dominated it's opponents every week unlike Peachtree Ridge. I have all the respect in the world for PTR and I picked them before the season started as my playoff sleeper. I knew Fleetwood's installment of the spread offense would fully utilize the over abundance of talent @ PTR. They play sound football and they tackle well on defense. Best is accurate and has some equally good running backs to hand off to like Hosch does at NG. The offenses are strikingly similar in appearance, but PTR has a speed advantage at WR. I think, and I'm sure the majority of spectators will agree with this, that NG's defense is to good this year and PTR will have a rough night offensively trying to move the ball against Mo Dixon's defense. NG's defense has not allowed a 100 yard rusher and only allowed over 100 yards rushing to an opponent 1 time (East St. Louis, ILL). Everybody of this defense flies to the ball and wants to kill somebody; anyone can see that by watching them practice. I also have to give NG the coaching edge as well. Sphire and his staff are one of the best in the country. I want to see a close game where NG has to be perfect to win. This game is the final tune up preparation for the playoffs and the winner of this game knows the road to the dome will be LONG and VERY treachurous. R8 Archer/ Parkview, then East Coweta or Lowndes/ Valdosta, then Camden, then Grayson. That's either extremely bad luck or a blessing in disguise. I think both PTR and NG have the coaching and talent to make deep playoff runs and I am expecting PTR to do very well on the other side of the bracket if they should lose. If NG should lose I expect them to steam roll into the semi's. Brookwood would be up 1st and we all know how well NG dominates the Broncos. This quadrant of the bracket is VERY favorable to the loser of this R7 title game. I can't wait for kickoff and wish everyone safe travels! GOOOOO DAWGS...SIC EM!!

0

NGHS09 2 years, 5 months ago

"North Gwinnett has built one of the state's top defenses. The Bulldogs are only allowing 188.2 yards a game. Defensive linemen Jordan Washington (Mississippi State commit) and Justin Alabi, and linebackers Carl Rider (Furman commit), Steven Burger and Justin Thomas lead the group."

"It's a pressure defense. They are going to play as fast as any team we've played," Fleetwood said. "Athleticly, if you go down every position, they're as good as anybody we've played."

  • Fleetwood is a smart man. He gives more credit than is realistically due to the defenders of NG. Fleetwood knows he has more "athletes" on both sides of the ball than NG does, but he also knows and understands completely that NG's coaching is the reason the defense is so smothering and why the offense is averaging 37 points a game. The defense is very fast, but the reason they look so fast is not because they are all exeception athletes or D1 talent...it's because they are always in the right position to make a play which means they are cutting the play off before it can reach them first. It is a pressure defense, but it's also a complete unit effort. There is not one player with an overwhelming amount of tackles or stats that stands out amoung the group. They play as one mind, one soul, one heart beat. They feed off one another and make each other very good football players. MLB Stephen Burger is proably the most akward (athletically) LB NG has ever had starting, but he makes plays like he is 6'3" 220 lbs. Carl Rider and Burger are the generals on defense and each of them direct the unit as a whole to near perfection. Rover # 25 Christopher James is barely 5' 8" 170 lbs, but can cover any WR and he refuses to be blocked (he'll knock you out if you take him lightly lol). FS #12 Bobby Young is only a sophmore and is 6'1" 175 lbs(i don't see how) and this kid lays the wood as well as defends the pass as good as anybody. The corners Malcolm Jackson and Jordan Chaskin/ Donnie Miles/ Will Harris are good in coverage and will tackle anything you put in front of them. The front seven speaks for itself. Those guys are the best in the state collectively in my oppinion.The defense is so scary good becasuse each player knows exactly what to do in every situation, each player knows where the other should be and will be, and each player plays for the guy next to them; something I haven't seen since 2007. You can coach a player to be good on the field statistically and physically, but you can't coach a kid to have heart and love for his brothers around him.They are so fun to watch (unless you are a fan of the other team lol). Mark my words, Billy Best will be running for his life tonight. Hard work and great coaching beats talent.
0

Sign in to comment