Tuesday May 31st, 2016 2:04AM

No. 1 North Gwinnett looks to knock Norcross off top of 7-AAAAAA heap

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
SUWANEE -- North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire is not one to look in his rear-view mirror very often.

Case in point. After two dominating wins to open the season, Sphire and the Bulldogs find themselves ranked No. 1 for the first time since 2006. He said polls only tell where you've been, not what lies ahead.

"I'd rather be No. 1 than last I suppose, but it doesn't mean much if you come out the next week and lose. We don't worry about polls that much," he said.

What lies ahead for the Bulldogs is a trip to defending Class AAAAAA state champ and fellow region rival Norcross on Friday in both teams' Region 7-AAAAAA opener.

The Bulldogs (2-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAAAAA) are coming off a 35-0 destruction of a very good Grayson team last week. The Blue Devils (1-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAAAAA) rallied from a 55-0 beatdown from the nation's top-ranked team (Booker T. Washington out of Miami) in their season-opener to beat Parkview 21-7 last week.

Sphire said the only thing that matters now is getting off to a good start in the region. The winner of this game has gone on to win the region each of the last two seasons and three of the last five.

"It's a huge game for both teams and really means a lot since it's the first region game of the year," he said. "The past doesn't ever really matter in this game. All I know is that they have about 18 (starters) returning and they look just as good, if not better, than they did last year.

"You can throw out that first game they lost. I saw the Parkview game and they got better with each possession. They will be just as tough as they've always been. The team with the fewest mistakes and the most big plays will win."

The series has turned in recent years with the road team winning the last two and six of the last eight meetings.

"I didn't realize that. I don't know if that means anything but hopefully that's a good sign for us," Sphire said.

The Bulldogs have displayed a balanced attack behind junior quarterback Hayden Sphire. Sphire has been solid with 538 yards passing and four TDs in the first two games.

Nate Brown, Caleb Scott, and junior tight end Daniel Immatorbhebhe have proven a tough trio to stop combining for 20 receptions and 302 yards receiving. Brown has three TD catches and Scott one. Senior running back C.J. Leggett has carried the load on the ground with 156 yards and one touchdown rushing.

Coach Sphire was pleased with the offense but said the defense has been the early catalyst. They have allowed just 14 total points to two high-powered offenses. Grayson averaged nearly 40 points a game last year.

"It's hard to single out any one or two guys (on defense) because they have played outstanding as a unit," Sphire said. "We felt we would be pretty good defensively but right now they're playing even better than we expected. But they will have their hands full this week."

Norcross quarterback A.J. Bush guided the Blue Devils offense to two scores and Myles Autry had a long punt return for a touchdown against Parkview.

Despite the game being on the road, Coach Sphire said the enthusiasm of the community is ratcheting up the closer Friday gets.

"There's always an excitement with this game, like with Peachtree Ridge, but with the ranking and how this game has decided the region the last few years I think everyone knows how big this game is," Sphire said. "It's just one game, but there's a buzz going around the area. It should be fun."

NOTES: Norcross has won nine straight home games and is 20-2 at Norcross Stadium since 2009. But, both losses were at the hands of North Gwinnett. . .The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are 17-1 in their last 18 road games going back to 2009, including two straight road wins over Norcross. Their last road loss to the Blue Devils was in 2007.
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 2 years ago )
Big Red Shootout: Buford foils Lady Elephants' upset bid in finale
Buford junior Camille Anderson knows to forget about the past during games.
11:09PM ( 2 years ago )
Boys basketball: Knights rebound with win over Centennial
The Johnson boys bounced back after a loss to Grayson on Friday with a 94-72 win Saturday night over Centennial in the Duluth Jingle Jam.
10:43PM ( 2 years ago )
Girls basketball: Dawson falls in Battle of States finals
Dawson County fell behind early and could not complete the comeback in a 70-65 loss to Hayesville, N.C. in the championship game of The Battle of the States Tournament Saturday night.
10:38PM ( 2 years ago )
High School Sports
Snelling to make curtain call at East-West Classic (Video)
Ask Walt Snelling about Gainesville football and you will be supplied with a litany of great players and games from a program with an illustrious history.
7:33PM ( 2 years ago )
High School football 2013: Superlatives abound after another special season
After letting it soak in for a few days we
7:42PM ( 2 years ago )
Friday Game Night
Column: NFL version of 3-card monte: the Super Bowl Scam
The NFL has its own version of three-card monte...
By The Associated Press
11:54PM ( 2 hours ago )
Mallex Smith's 3-run triple powers Braves past Giants, 5-3
Mike Foltynewicz is showing he can be more than just a fastball pitcher — and that he can be part of the Braves' long-term rotation.
By The Associated Press
11:51PM ( 2 hours ago )
Baylor hires former Wake coach Grobe to replace Briles
Baylor has hired former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe to replace Art Briles and lead its football program through a tumultuous time
6:14PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Source: Baylor will hire former Wake coach Grobe
A person involved in the decision tells The Associated Press that Baylor will hire former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe to lead its football program this season
4:38PM ( 9 hours ago )
Truex seeking bigger things after Charlotte romp
Truex says his dominating win at the Coca-Cola 600 is just the tip of what team can achieve
12:09PM ( 13 hours ago )