POWDER SPRINGS — For four plays in the third quarter, fans were on the edge of their seats as momentum was hanging by a thread in the Class AAAAAA semifinal between North Gwinnett and McEachern.
That momentum was seized by both teams, but in the end, it was North that came out on top in the sequence and in the game, 27-21.
A 12-yard punt by McEachern gave the Bulldogs great field position with the game tied at 14. However, on the first play of the next drive, North quarterback Hayden Sphire threw an interception to turn the ball back over to McEachern.
But the North defense stepped up on the next play as Tony Bradford intercepted Bailey Hockman to give the ball back to the Bulldogs on their own 47-yard line.
“That play was huge,” North head coach Bob Sphire said. “The defense made a big play that helped turn the momentum.”
“It was right to me,” Bradford said. “I knew what to expect from watching film.”
One play later, C.J. Leggett got to the edge and took it 53 yards for what ended up being the game-winning touchdown.
“I knew when we got the ball back that we’d score, but I didn’t think we’d score on the first play,” Bradford said.
The four-play sequence wasn’t the only thing the Bulldogs took advantage of either.
Twice more during the game, McEachern had punts of 13 yards and North capitalized.
Late in the second quarter, the Bulldogs took advantage of a bad McEachern punt and score when Nate Brown slammed his feet down in the back of the end zone with :11 to go in the half. The score gave North a 14-7 lead at halftime.
Later, after North had taken the lead, the defense again got a stop on McEachern’s offense. Another 13-yard punt set the Bulldogs up again with great field position, and they took advantage as Michael D’Angola booted a 45-yard field goal to put North up 24-14.
“This wasn’t a pretty game,” Sphire said. “Our defense played really good. You get into these types of games at this points in the year.”