SUWANEE — Defensively, North Gwinnett looked as sharp as ever Friday night, but a severe lack of offense left the Bulldogs in the dust in their 19-7 loss to Lovejoy.
Whether it was due to dropped passes, fumbles, interceptions, or just poor execution, North's offense couldn’t ever seem to get in sync in a football game featuring two unbeaten teams.
“Hats off to Lovejoy,” North head coach Bill Stewart said. “They came in here and played their tails off. At the end of the day, it comes down to focus, execution and everything else. We, as a team, have to learn from it and get better.”
The soggy conditions also appeared to hinder the Bulldogs’ ability to capitalize on opportunities as they dropped two sure touchdown passes, fumbled four times and missed two field goals.
Lovejoy, on the other hand, made the most of its opportunities as 13 of its points came off of turnovers inside North Gwinnett territory.
Both defenses were incredible in the first half, with North Gwinnett allowing minus-10 yards on the ground and just 49 yards through the air. The Wildcats weren't far behind, limiting North Gwinnett to just 43 rushing yards and 47 passing yards.
Lovejoy finally started to make some noise in the second half when a pair of beautiful deep balls from Stephin Craig to Antonio Jones and Quentavious Scandrett put them in the red zone. Two plays later, the Wildcats roared first as speedster Jakiel Middlebrook sliced through two defenders and into the end zone for the game’s first score.
The Bulldog defense responded soon after when safety Austin Wainwright jumped a slant route in stride and strolled into the end zone for North Gwinnett’s only score.
Despite the obvious shift in momentum, North Gwinnett still couldn’t get its offense rolling.
Lovejoy reclaimed the lead early in the fourth quarter after a recovered fumble put the Wildcats on the Bulldog 40-yard line. One play later, Jones took a wonderfully executed reverse play to the house to go up 12-7.
Perhaps the most obvious display of Lovejoy taking the gifts they were given came inside the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. Following an interception at the North Gwinnett 18-yard line, the Wildcats missed a 34-yard field goal attempt to go ahead by eight points. After the play, though, North Gwinnett was penalized for roughing the kicker. This gave Lovejoy the two more snaps it needed for Middlebrook to score one last time and put the Bulldogs out of reach.
“They stayed resilient and they fought. We knew North Gwinnett had a great football team. They’re well-disciplined and well-coached, so hats off to all of the guys, they played hard,” Lovejoy head coach Edgar Carson said. “We’re a work on progress on defense, but tonight they played well. A couple of guys grew up tonight. They stepped in and played well, so hopefully, this will push us forward moving into our last non-region game."
LOVEJOY 19, NORTH GWINNETT 7
Lovejoy 0 0 6 13 - 19
North Gwinnett 0 0 7 0 - 7
Lovejoy: Jakiel Middlebrook 5 run (Antonio Jones kick failed) 8:48
North Gwinnett: Austin Wainwright interception return (Cody Leach kick) 6:42
Lovejoy: Jones 40 run (Conversion failed) 10:53
Lovejoy: Middlebrook 5 run (Jones kick) 1:09