NORCROSS — Mother Nature was the real winner in Friday’s game between North Gwinnett and Norcross at Blue Devil Stadium.
Two lightning delays totaling nearly two hours forced the game to be postponed with the Bulldogs leading 13-0 and the Blue Devils facing third and 1 at the North 31-yard line with 49 seconds left in the first half.
The game will resume Monday at 5 p.m., which will mean a very busy week for both teams, with North (1-1) and Norcross (2-0) each facing a regularly scheduled game next Friday.
“We’ll figure that out,” Norcross coach Keith Maloof said. “I’m just glad it’s pre-(region). I’m more worried about the health of the kids if we tried to bring them back here tomorrow.”
North coach Bill Stewart took a similar attitude towards the postponement, and is focused on how he and his team will deal with the turn of events instead of dwelling on them.
“It is what it is,” Stewart said. “It put a damper on everything for the both of us, but we’ve just got to get ready to roll (on Monday) now.”
Norcross took its first possession of the game and drove down into North territory, but missed a long field goal attempt, and North took advantage behind the running of Devin Crosby.
The senior capped a long drive by snaking his way 33 yards through the Norcross defense for a touchdown that put the Bulldogs up 7-0 with 7:00 left in the first quarter before the first of two lightning delays occurred with 2:00 left in the opening frame.
After play resumed an hour and 33 minutes later, North drove as deep as the Norcross 24-yard line, but was pushed back by an illegal block penalty and eventually missed a field goal attempt.
However, a three-and-out by the defense and a punt gave the Bulldogs the ball back near midfield, though it looked like another penalty would thwart them once again.
But facing third and 13 at the Norcross 46 amidst driving rain, J.R. Martin evaded a heavy rush and spotted Josh Downs, who had slipped behind the Blue Devils’ secondary.
The senior receiver was all alone when he hauled in Martin’s heave at the 10 and beat a defender into the end zone with a dive for a touchdown what extended the North lead to 13-0 following a missed two-point conversion attempt with 1:36 left in the first half.
“We did some good things on our first drive (of the game), but missed a field goal,” Maloof said. “Then we missed some tackles (on Crosby’s TD run) and then let (Martin) sit in the pocket too long instead of getting a sack, and it’s hard to cover a good receiver (like Downs) for that long. Those were the two big plays right there.”
The Bulldogs looked like they had recovered a short kick in the rain on the ensuing kickoff, but were called for kick catch interference, which gave the Blue Devils the ball near midfield.
An encroachment penalty, a 4-yard run by Kaleb Jackson and a facemask penalty set Norcross up with a first down at the North 30-yard line and 49 seconds still left on the clock until halftime when lightning forced play to a halt for the second time on the night.
This time, it took only about a half-hour before play was suspended and the decision made to resume on Monday with the Blue Devils driving into Bulldogs territory.