With the Region 7 title in the high class on the line, the No. 5-ranked Norcross Blue Devils let their defense carry them to a 21-0 home win over the No. 9 Brookwood Broncos on Friday.
The win gives the Blue Devils (9-0, 5-0 Region 7) their first region championship since 2013, which is the last year they won a state title. They’re guaranteed to host the first two rounds of the state playoffs, which begin Nov. 11. The Broncos (6-3, 4-1) have locked up the No. 2 seed ahead of Parkview and Central Gwinnett and will host in the first round.
Though Blue Devils coach Keith Maloof was happy his team locked up the region, he was also quick to point out Norcross’ shortcomings in the state playoffs the past two seasons.
“It’s an awesome feat for our guys,” Maloof said. “We’ve really worked hard. The last two years we’ve got knocked out of the first round and we’ve learned some lessons. So now, hopefully we’ll be able take what we’ve learned and apply it to the playoffs. We’ve been on the road these last two years (in the playoffs) and now we’re at home and we feel good about that part, but we’ve got a lot to do to get better.”
Norcross earned its first shutout of the season by allowing Brookwood’s offense just 197 yards. The Broncos reached the red zone just once, which resulted in a missed 31-yard field goal. Of the Broncos’ 12 possessions, seven ended in punts and four of their five second-half possessions ended in a turnover on downs. A second-quarter punt resulted in a Norcross touchdown return.
“Our defense is playing lights out right now,” Maloof said.
Norcross got its 21 points in an unconventional manner: three touchdowns that ended with failed PATs and a field goal.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Blue Devils’ Necholas Sermons found pay dirt on a 30-yard pass from Baron Radcliff with 5:17 remaining in the half. On Brookwood’s ensuing possession, the Blue Devils forced a three-and-out with Jared Simpkins scoring on a 47-yard punt return with 3:30 remaining. The Broncos’ next possession ended in yet another punt, allowing the Blue Devils time to get to the Brookwood 5-yard line so that Cole Hanna could kick a 22-yard field goal with 9 seconds left. That gave Norcross a 15-0 lead heading into halftime.
That score would hold until the end of the game, when with 37.9 seconds remaining, Omar Sinclair put the exclamation point on the Blue Devils’ region title with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Radcliff finished with 202 passing yards and a touchdown and interception on 13-for-25 passing. His leading receiver was Tamir Jones with 59 yards on two catches. Sermons had 41 yards on two catches.
The Broncos were led by Angelo DiSpigna, who competed 16 of his 32 passes for 126 yards. Chris Cotter had 60 yards on six catches and Matthew Hill led all rushers with 40 yards on 16 carries.
The Blue Devils close out the regular season next week at Meadowcreek, while the Broncos host Lakeside.
Brookwood 0 0 0 0 – 0
Norcross 0 15 0 6 – 21
N – Necholas Sermons 30 pass from Baron Radcliff (kick failed)
N – Jared Simpkins 47 punt return (pass failed)
N – Cole Hanna 22 FG
N – Omar Sinclair 4 run (kick failed)