The big picture was understandably the focus in Meadowcreek finally breaking its 53-game losing streak on Friday night.
However, there was actually an even longer streak the Mustangs shattered with their 21-14 homecoming win over Habersham Central at Meadowcreek Community Stadium.
The win over Region 7-AAAAAA foe Habersham marked the first time the Mustangs had won a region game of any kind since a 13-3 win over Newton on Nov. 11, 1997 — a string of 91 region straight games dating back to Tom Lozano’s final year as head coach.
Wins over Cross Keys in 2002 and 2003 and the 2008 win over Duluth were non-region games, while the Mustangs’ combined six wins over the 2000 and 2001 seasons all came when they played a completely non-region schedule.
Unsung heroes aplenty
There were plenty of heros who contributed to Meadowcreek’s win.
While the most visible of those heroes — Laquan Johnson (TD receptions, INT return for TD), Ryan Moore (23 carries, 165 yards) and Adeniyi Henderson-Harden (fumble return for TD) — have been well documented, there were several more subtle individuals who stepped up in big ways for the Mustangs.
Among them are juniors Antonio Bailey and Terrell Davis, who each had 1 1/2 sacks and constantly harassed Habersham quarterbacks throughout the evening.
And then there was Cuba Reyes, who helped the Mustangs dodge a major bullet by recovering a Raiders fumble after a fourth-down gamble deep in Meadowcreek territory failed early the third quarter.
But perhaps the most unsung hero of the night might have been placekicker/punter Jesse Romero.
In addition to making all three of his extra points, the 5-foot-10, 191-pound senior not only helped keep Habersham backed up with his four kickoffs — including a touchback on the opening boot of the game — he also helped the Mustangs gain valuable field position by averaging 38 yards on five punts, one of which backed Habersham to its own 1-yard line in the third quarter.
But perhaps his biggest kick was the 37-yarder with the Mustangs clinging to a seven-point lead that flipped the field and forced Habersham to start its final drive at its own 17 with just 2:13 remaining and no timeouts.
Too many points
North Gwinnett has been known for its low-scoring defense over the year. That wasn’t the case on Friday against Mill Creek. The Bulldogs had a 50-47 victory, the most points allowed in nearly 20 years. The Bulldogs last gave up that many points in 1995 when they had a 48-17 loss to Tucker.
Climbing The Ladder
Archer’s climb up the ladder of success continued Friday night as the Tigers celebrated Homecoming and rolled past Central Gwinnett 41-20.
Now sitting at 7-0 and with the most wins in the short history of the school, the goals become loftier as a first-ever region title is within reach with three games to go.
Archer is now 5-0 in Region 8-AAAAAA, which has seen its share of state champions over the years in Grayson, Brookwood and Parkview. Archer finishes with a game at Berkmar on Oct. 18, a home game with South Gwinnett on Oct. 25 and the regular-season finale on Nov. 2 at Grayson.
The Tigers are now averaging more than 32 points-per-game while the defense hasn’t allowed more than 20 points this season.
“There is no other way to do it than to take it one game at a time,” Archer head coach Andy Dyer said. “We realize what’s in front of us. We approach every Monday as the beginning of another week and another game.”
Dennis delivers for Devils
Tight end Darian Dennis had just one catch for seven yards this season prior to Friday night.
But the Norcross senior broke out in a 28-0 victory over previously unbeaten Collins Hill with three catches for 55 yards. His first two catches, both on third down, netted first downs. He also had a 27-yard catch on Norcross’ last scoring drive.
“Darian, we’ve known what he can do, it’s just a matter of getting him into the mix,” Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said.
With how well its defense played, Norcross didn’t have many complaints Friday night.
But one area of concern was a pile of penalties. The Blue Devils were flagged 14 times for 106 yards, and nine of those penalties were on offense.
On their only second-half scoring drive, they overcame to blocks in the back and two illegal procedure penalties.
“We got caught holding right before the half that hurt us, we talked about it at halftime and then we got another holding right off the bat (in the third quarter),” Maloof said. “But we got out of it. We overcame those. We’ve just got to keep getting better.”
Rams’ Hoyt tackles kicking
Maybe the number 52 should be a hint. During preseason camp Austin Hoyt lined up each practice at linebacker for the Grayson Rams. But when the team started searching for a field goal kicker, Hoyt spoke up, saying he’d kicked some in youth league. Midway through the season, Hoyt’s become a weapon for the surging Rams.
In Friday’s win over Berkmar, the junior hit field goals of 24, 24 and 22 yards and was a perfect 4 of 4 on extra points including a rushed attempt in the final minutes following a surprise defensive score. “He’s been great,” head coach Mickey Conn said. “He’s gotten better and better each week.”
Fresh start for Panthers
Parkview started the year 0-5, having many people write them off.
In the Gwinnett Prep Sports High School Pick ‘em contest, 99 percent of pickers selected Dacula to beat Parkview on Friday.
However, the Panthers proved all the naysayers wrong, coming out on top for a 28-21 victory.
But Parkview head coach Cecil Flowe said he couldn’t blame people for what they thought about his team.
“Any time you see an 0-5 team, you don’t think of them as a good team,” he said. “We used the bye week to get back to Parkview football.”
Flowe said his team re-focused itself to the second half of the season, which they are dubbing as a new season.
“So far, we’re 1-0,” he said. “We’re focused on us and how we can get better.”
— Sports Editor Will Hammock, staff writers Ben Beitzel, Brandon Brigman and David Friedlander and staff correspondents Steve Argo and Chris Stephens contributed to this report