Norcross’ Christopher Herndon (23) soars over Colquitt County’s O’Shay Williams (7) during the second half of high school football action in the Class AAAAAA state semifinal game in Norcross Friday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
NORCROSS — After having knee surgery in the offseason, Norcross receiver Myles Autry hadn’t been the same dynamic player this season.
Autry returned to his old form on Friday.
The senior caught a pass and weaved across the field for the game-winning touchdown, lifting the Blue Devils to a 14-9 win over Colquitt County in the Class AAAAAA semifinals.
“We had a plan to keep running the ball,” Autry said. “When my name was called I had to make a play.”
Norcross will get a rematch against North Gwinnett in next Saturday’s Class AAAAAA state championship game at the Georgia Dome. Norcross, the defending state champion, fell to North 36-17 in the Region 7 opener in September.
“We’re back in the championship game,” Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. “We’ve had some great games in the past with North. I’m sure we’ll have another great one for the biggest prize of prizes.”
Norcross (12-2) knocked Colquitt (11-3) out of the state playoffs for the second straight year. The Packers have had their season by a Gwinnett team every year in the playoffs since 2010.
Colquitt came into Friday’s game winning its previous three playoff games by an average of 34 points.
The Norcross defense once again had another big night, holding Colquitt to just three field goals. Norcross has allowed 25 points in the playoffs.
“They stepped up big,” Maloof said. “The field goals instead of touchdowns really helped us.”
The Packers had just 181 yards of total offense and 10 first downs. They were shut out in the second half with just 59 yards and two first downs. Quarterback Daniel Mobley was 12 of 24 for 101 yards and an interception. Sihiem King was the team’s leading rusher with 40 yards.
After a one-hour lightning delay with 10:18 left in the game, Norcross forced a Colquitt punt as it trailed 9-7. The Blue Devils needed just six plays to take the lead. Autry caught a swing pass to the left and was met by a wall of defenders. He cut across the field and ran in for a 19-yard touchdown with 6:12 left in the game.
“I had a vision across the field and took it to the end zone,” said Autry, who finished three catches for 30 yards.
Colquitt was forced to punt with the ball at midfield with 2:36 left the game. The Packers got the ball back, but Norcross’ Jordan Noil intercepted a pass with less than minute to seal the win.
“We knew the defense wasn’t going to let them score,” Autry said.
Jose Vega kicked a 34-yard field goal on Colquitt’s first possession of the game. Norcross’ D’Andre Plantin recovered a fumble and the defense forced a punt on the next two possessions. But Norcross fumbled the punt return. The Blue Devils’ defense came up with another big stop as Jaquan Frazier had a sack on third down. Vega kicked a 32-yard field goal to give Colquitt a 6-0 lead.
Norcross’ offense finally got things going on its fifth possession. Quarterback A.J. Bush broke off a 50-yard run to the one. That set up James Keeling’s one-yard touchdown run to give the Blue Devils a 7-6 lead with 3:19 left in the half. Bush rushed for 113 yards on 14 carries and was 6 of 13 passing for 67 yards with one TD.
On the kickoff, Norcross was called for a personal foul and then was offsides on the first play. That gave Colquitt the ball at the Blue Devils’ 47. The Packers drove all the way to the eight and had to settle for another field goal, this time 26 yards from Vega to take a 9-7 lead at halftime.
Colquitt opened the second half by driving to the seven, but had to settle for another field goal attempt. Vega missed from 25 yards to keep the game 9-7.
Norcross drove to the Colquitt 6, but was stopped on fourth-and-one. The Blue Devils got the ball right back and reached the 25, but were once again stopped on fourth down. Then the officials called a one-hour lightning delay.
“I wanted to kick and they talked me into it,” Maloof said of the first fourth-down attempt. “It’s their team. There’s a lot seniors on both sides of the ball. It didn’t go our way, but they said we’ve got your back.”
After the lightning delay, Norcross’ defense continued to play lights out. That gave Autry the opportunity to return to his old form.
“I hadn’t seen him like that,” Maloof said. “I told him to be patient and some point in time he would win a big game.”
NORCROSS 14, COLQUITT COUNTY 9
Colquitt County 3 6 0 0 — 9
Norcross 0 7 0 7 — 14
Colquitt County: Jose Vega 34 FG, 7:18
Colquitt County: Vega 32 FG, 8:53
Norcross: James Keeling 1 run (Blake Bingham kick) 3:19
Colquitt County: Vega 26 FG, :20
Norcross: Myles Autry 19 pass from A.J. Bush (Bingham kick) 6:12
Colquitt ---- Norcross
First downs 10 ---- 9
Rushes-yards 37-80 ---- 32-173
Comp-Att-Int 12-24-1 ---- 6-13-0
Passing yards 101 ---- 67
Penalties-yards 3-25 ---- 8-108
Fumbles-lost 1-1 ---- 1-1
RUSHING — Colquitt County: Sihiem King 25-40; Daniel Mobley 7-6; Timothy Sanders 4-35; Todd Boyd 1-(-1). Norcross: A.J. Bush 14-113; Josh Boyd 15-55; Clinton Lynch 1-1; KaDarius Garrett 1-3; James Keeling 1-1.
PASSING — Colquitt County: Daniel Mobley 12-24-1, 101. Norcross: A.J. Bush 6-13-0, 67.
RECEIVING — Colquitt County: Ty Lee 2-56; Kiel Pollard 4-36; Sihiem King 3-5; Todd Boyd 2-2; Timothy Sanders 1-2. Norcross: Myles Autry 3-30; Chris Herndon 3-37.