POWDER SPRINGS -- C.J. Leggett ran for 289 yards and two touchdowns to lead North Gwinnett to a 27-21 win over McEachern in the Class AAAAAA semifinals Friday night.
North Gwinnett scored 21 unanswered points to grab the lead after falling behind 7-0 early in the game and then held on in the final minute for the victory.
The win put the Bulldogs (13-1) into the championship game for the first time since 2007. They will be more than familiar with their finals opponent.
North Gwinnett will take on fellow Region 7-AAAAAA foe Norcross next Saturday at 8:30 p.m.in the finals. The Blue Devils, who are the reigning Class AAAAAA champs, won a defensive battle over Colquitt County 14-9 in the other semifinal to advance to their second consecutive championship game.
North Gwinnett knocked off Norcross 36-17 earlier in the regular season.
It was a wild start for the Bulldogs. Quarterback Hayden Sphire was picked off on the first play of the game and McEachern would make them pay on the following play with a 35-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game.
North Gwinnett would rally. Leggett would ramble 56-yards and set up his own 3-yard TD un to tie the game late in the first quarter. Sphire would connect with Nate Brown for a 3-yard TD pass on their next possession to take a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Leggett would add a 53-yard TD run in the third quarter to give the Bulldogs what looked to be a comfortable 21-7 lead.
The Indians would not go quietly. McEachern cut the lead to 21-14 early in the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs would answer stretching the lead to 27-14 on a pair of Michael D'Angola field goals of 45- and 25-yards. McEachern had one last gasp.
The Indians would trim the lead to 27-21 with 2:31 left on a touchdown run. North Gwinnett would recover the ensuing on-side kick and nearly ran the clock out.
McEachern would get the ball with eight seconds left and a last gasp pass fell incomplete to end the game.
Sphire would finish 10-of-19 for 78 yards and one TD pass to go with two interceptions. The Bulldogs finished 381 total yards, 290 on the ground.