By Kirk McQueen
Coming into Friday nights quarterfinal football game North Gwinnett knew it was taking on Marietta High School and their high passing attack with sophomore sensation quarterback Harrison Bailey who came into the game with over 1,400 yards passing on the year.
North’s defense rose to the occasion sacking Harrison several times and holding him to only 63 yards in the first half. Head coach Bill Stewart of North Gwinnett knew the defense had to play an integral part in the game plan. Stewart’s son Jake Stewart helped with a sack in the end zone for a safety setting the tone for the evening.
North Gwinnett did not trail in the game with a 51-41 win against Marietta High School in the Class AAAAAAA State playoffs. North relied on its running game with Tyler Goodson rushing for 292 yards on the evening and Jimmy Urzua North Gwinnett QB passing for 122 yards going ten of twelve on passes.
Marietta closed within three points late in the fourth quarter and then recovered an onside kick with the opportunity to either tie or win the game only to throw an interception where North Gwinnett ran it back to the 28 sealing the win for North Gwinnett.
North Gwinnett ran off ten unanswered points in the opening half, with the Stewart safety and DJ Turner took the ensuing punt after the safety for a 76-yard return touchdown to put North up 10-0. The score at half was 15-7 North leading. In the first half neither team could really get rolling with North outgaining Marietta 97 yards to 38 yards. On the first play of the second half Bailey connected with WR Keyton for a 73-yard touchdown pass. Then North Gwinnett scored making score 24-14, and Bailey found a receiver for another touchdown cutting the score to within three points.
North Gwinnett went on a scoring spree, scoring 21 straight points before Marietta and Bailey began to score and draw closer. However, North Gwinnett then scored and was leading 41-21 with twelve minutes left in the game. North fumbled on two occasions leaving Marietta only ten points behind with eleven minutes left. Then Marietta scored on a seven-play drive to cut the score to 44-41 with just under seven minutes left in the game. That is when North intercepted them and ran back to the 28-yard line and the game ended with North scoring and winning, 51-41.
North Gwinnett will face McEachern next Friday night at home while Marietta wrapped up its season.