North Gwinnett Donnie Miles celebrates a game winning field goal in the final seconds of high school football action of the Corky Kell Classic between North Gwinnett and Colquitt County at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Saturday. North Gwinnett defeated Colquitt County 16-14.
For complete coverage of North Gwinnett prep sports, click HERE.
ATLANTA -- This time, it was North Gwinnett's turn to beat the clock at the Georgia Dome.
After being beaten by two scores in the final 10 seconds in last year's Corky Kell Classic, the Bulldogs pulled off their own late game heroics. Michael D'Angola booted a 33-yard field goal as time expired to lift North to a 16-14 upset of No. 2 state-ranked Colquitt County on Saturday.
"Is there anything better than high school football?" North head coach Bob Sphire asked rhetorically after the Bulldogs (1-0) won their second game in three Corky Kell Classic appearances. "There were two teams with a lot of character out there. It wasn't pretty, but ... I'm just so tickled for these kids to get to experience this ... on the heels of last year leading that whole game and giving up the lead with 10 seconds to go against McEachern. You've just got to keep plugging."
The Bulldogs kept plugging despite three turnovers, inconsistent production on offense and running only 48 offensive plays to Colquitt County's 72.
They did it with a defense that bent -- giving up 285 yards -- but didn't break by allowing the Packers (0-1) into the end zone just once.
And then there was D'Angola, who booted his first career varsity field goal under the highest pressure situation.
"I've been telling him for two years, ... I've had this visual of him doing that very thing," Sphire said of D'Angola's clutch kick. "I didn't know it would happen the first game, but I'd visualized him doing this at some point and time."
Still, D'Angola might not have had the chance for his heroics had North not responded twice after Colquitt had taken the lead in the second half.
The first came after Roberto Vega kicked a 30-yard field goal -- his second of the game -- with 10 seconds left in the third quarter to vault the Packers in front 8-7.
Up until that time, Sphire had stuck to his plan to limit the dynamic Donnie Miles to playing primarily on defense.
But needing a spark, he put the senior in the backfield. The North Carolina commitment responded by bursting through a hole on the left side and outrunning the Colquitt defense 77 yards for a touchdown that put North back in front 13-8 by the end of the quarter.
"Coach called my number, and I knew what I had to do," said Miles, who finished with 78 yards on four carries. "All year long, ... I'm going to give back to this team what they give to me. I moved up here from Miami, and they've given a lot of me."
Still, Colquitt also had an answer taking the opening possession of the fourth quarter 77 yards in six plays. Deonte McCain scored from 5 yards out to push the Packers out in front 14-13 after a missed two-point conversion with 9:26 to play.
It looked like that might be enough after Brandon Key pounced on a North fumble at the Colquitt 25-yard line with just 2:06 remaining.
But the Bulldogs utilized both their remaining timeouts and stopped the Packers on three plays before getting the ball back with 1:05 to play at their own 46.
Two completions from Michael Haynes to Nate Brown and a 12-yard scramble by Haynes moved the ball to the 11. Haynes was sacked on the next play back at the 17 with 30 seconds left and the clock ticking.
With no timeouts left and facing third down, Sphire elected to send D'Angola and the field goal unit straight onto the field without spiking the ball to stop the clock.
Despite the chaos of both teams sending in subs, D'Angola didn't have much time to think about the pressure, and with the snap beating the buzzer by just seconds, the junior calmly booted home the game winner.
"I just imagined it like practice," D'Angola said. "All these things were running through my mind, but ... I just kept focusing real hard."
The focus for both teams seemed to be lacking somewhat for both teams during a first half dominated by mistakes, with the two teams combining for five turnovers and 115 yards in penalties, and each cashing in on one."I'm surprised we had as many as we did," Colquitt coach Rush Propst said. "We turned it over too much."
Colquitt turned John Gray's recovery of a muffed punt return at the North 20 into a 43-yard field goal by Vega take a 3-0 with 5:15 left in the first quarter.
But North answered when the ball came loose at the Packers' 34, and Tony Bradford yanked it out of the pile and went the distance for a touchdown that vaulted the Bulldogs in front 7-3 with 2:58 left in the opening frame.