For nearly 45 minutes the Archer offense could do very little against the tough, aggressive Norcross defense. But the Class AAAAAAA No. 4-ranked Tigers somehow found their offense, passing their way down the field and scoring with one minute left to take a 16-13 win.
Archer (4-0) took over at the 18 with 3:15 left, overcame a holding penalty, took advantage of a pass interference penalty and scored the winning touchdown when Carter Peevy threw a 13-yard strike to Braylen Weems with 1:00 showing on the clock
“I read my route and I was open and saw it coming,” Weems said. “I just caught it and held on to it as tight as I could.”
The crucial play was a 40-yard completion on the next play after the holding penalty backed Archer up to the 8. Andrew Booth, who caught a touchdown pass in the first half, beat a couple of defenders to come away with the ball at midfield.
“That catch Booth made got us in gear,” Archer coach Andy Dyer said. “We started having guys make play after play after play.”
Peevy, who completed 16 of 25 passes for 168 yards, was cool on the final drive. He hit four different defenders, often under duress.
“Everybody did their job,” Peevy said. “We made the plays when we had to and that’s what led to the touchdown.”
Norcross coach Keith Maloof, whose team fell to 1-3, said, “Give them credit, they focused at the end and got it done.”
The game was a defensive struggle all night.
Dyer said, “The story tonight was how our defense played.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Norcross jumped in front 3-0 on a 55-yard field goal from Georgia commit Jake Camarda.
The Blue Devils kept the momentum when they scored on a short field. Peevy lost the snap at the 1 and barely avoided a safety. An ensuing 15-yard punt set Norcross up at the 17 and it needed three plays to score, with Jaquez McWilliams scoring on an 11-yard run.
Norcross had to play the final three quarters without starting quarterback Louis Williams, who was injured on the final play of the first quarter.
Archer drove for its first score midway in the second quarter. The Tigers went 80 yards in 11 plays, with Peevy standing up to a heavy rush to connect with Booth for a 35-yard touchdown on fourth-and-9 with 5:27 remaining in the half.
The Tigers cut the deficit 10-9 with a safety. Solomon Zubaini rushed almost untouched into McWilliams halfway into the end zone.
After a scoreless third quarter, Norcross scored with 7:44 remaining in the game on a 50-yard field goal by Camarda, giving the Blue Devils a 13-9 lead.
But Norcross simply could not get any offense going against the Archer defense. The Blue Devils went three-and-out on four of their six offensive possessions in the second half.
“Our kids played their hearts out and I thought we played well against a very good Archer football team,” Maloof said.