SUWANEE — When the Lovejoy Wildcats traveled to North Gwinnett a year ago, they produced one of the stunners of the 2020 football season with a 19-7 upset win that snapped the Bulldogs’ 27-game home winning streak.
The Bulldogs did not let things get anywhere near that close in the revenge game.
North defensive end Tyler Walton forced a fumble on the second play from scrimmage, and that set the tone for a dominant defensive display from the Bulldogs in a 30-0 victory over Lovejoy on Homecoming at Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium.
North (2-2) forced three turnovers and held Lovejoy (1-1) to just 38 yards of total offense, including a minuscule 10 yards in the entire second half to emphatically preserve the shutout.
“Last year it was a hollow feeling when we lost this game,” North head coach Bill Stewart said. “They do such a great job over there with their coaches and their team. We knew that we would have to play hard, and I think we did.”
Walton’s forced fumble on Lovejoy’s first series set the Bulldogs up at the Lovejoy 19, but they were only able to turn it into a field goal after a bad snap on second-and-goal derailed the possession.
Just over a quarter later, the offense had a nearly identical opportunity with a short field after Zach Johansen recovered a fumble at the Lovejoy 22. This time the offense capitalized, with Marcus McFarlane pushing a pile of defenders into the end zone from seven yards out. And after a cagey first quarter, the first touchdown of the game opened the floodgates.
Two minutes later the Bulldogs’ offense got another crack at it, and Marek Briley popped up with an explosive play. The junior wide receiver caught a bubble screen up the right sideline, shook around two tackles and flew 49 yards to the end zone. Briley finished as the game’s leading receiver with 98 yards, accounting for almost half of quarterback Ethan Washington’s 215 passing yards for the game.
McFarlane tacked on a longer burst to his short score when he went 47 yards untouched up the middle late in the second quarter for his fourth touchdown in the last three games. He finished his night just a shade under 100 yards with 96 yards on 13 carries.
“I just saw a clear open hole,” McFarlane said on the 47-yard dash. “I decided to turn on the jets and score a touchdown.”
Linebacker Grant Godfrey added an exclamation point to a second quarter the home team won 20-0 with an interception on the final play of the first half, the third turnover of the first half for the Wildcats, and the visitors from Clayton County did not cross midfield for the rest of the contest.
Washington sent the game into running clock territory with a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal from the 1 early in the second quarter, sending North’s offense to the 30-point plateau for the second consecutive week after failing to reach it in the first two games of the campaign. The defense that had allowed over 30 points in each of its first three games held Lovejoy under 30 total yards until deep into the fourth quarter and never let Lovejoy’s offense make it past the North 45-yard line all game.
“I appreciate any time you get a shutout,” Stewart said. “When we get a goose egg, that’s a big deal for us. We’ll be getting them〔North's players〕doughnuts, and they know it, too. I had all of them telling me ‘alright coach, doughnuts!’”
The Bulldogs have avenged one of their home losses from 2020, and will now set their sights on the other with a trip to play the Archer Tigers next Friday night, while Lovejoy will close out non-region play against Griffin.
NORTH GWINNETT 30, LOVEJOY 0
Lovejoy 0 0 0 0 — 0
North Gwinnett 3 20 7 0 — 30
North: Daniel Smith 27 FG 8:12
North: Marcus McFarlane 10 rush (Smith kick) 7:40
North: Marek Briley 49 pass from Ethan Washington (two-point rush failed) 5:07
North: McFarlane 47 rush (Smith kick) 2:57
North: Washington 1 rush (Smith kick) 8:08