It wasn’t pretty. At some points, it was hard to watch. And for a brief moment any fan in the stadium would have been smart to just look away.
When the buzzer sounded Friday though, the last thing anyone saw was the scoreboard, which read North Gwinnett 27, Mountain View 14, as the Bulldogs found a way to come from behind in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to their defense. The Bulldogs are now 8-0 all-time against the Bears.
The opening of Region 6-AAAAAAA — pitting one-loss No. 6 North Gwinnett (4-1, 1-0) at undefeated Mountain View (4-1, 0-1) — was billed to be a something of a heavy-weight prize fight. In some respects, lived up to the hype, as both defenses pushed the other’s offenses to the limits. On the other hand, sloppy play and a downpour of yellow laundry turned the game into an eye-sore.
In total, the referees threw a combined 35 flags and the Bulldogs and Bears combined for five turnovers.
“I have never been in a game like that,” Bulldogs coach Bill Stewart said. His team was penalized 19 times and had two fumbles. “We train our guys to play through their mistakes and I am really proud the way they fought back.”
North Gwinnett trailed 14-12 entering the fourth quarter after a Mountain View’s Trevon Salter returned a Bulldogs’ fumble down to the 7-yard line and three plays later the Bears scored a touchdown.
“I am not going to lie, we were getting a little bit discouraged going into the fourth quarter,” linebacker Jaylen McDonald said. “We had been through that adversity before so we knew we come out and get the win.”
The Bulldogs turned to their quarterback for that. Jimmy Urzua led the Bulldogs on a five-play, 50-yard drive that ended with him throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Bryce fowler to go up 20-14 with 7:20 left in the game.
This was one of the few times in the game, North Gwinnett didn’t stall its own drives. Late in the first half, the Bulldogs had two plays of over 45 yards each called back because of a block in the back and an illegal shift.
Mountain View was just as bad costing themselves opportunity after opportunity. The Bears had an interception called back for defensive pass interference, a snap go over punter Carlos Ayala for a safety and when the offense needed a spark in the fourth quarter an offensive pass interference sucked the wind out of that drive.
“It’s hard to get going when there are so many stoppages like that in a game,” Stewart said. “It becomes up to our players to create the energy for us and they came through tonight.”
North Gwinnett had an uphill battle to climb less than three minutes into the game. The Bears came out on their opening drive of the game and moved the ball right down the field behind quarterback Matt Edwards. The senior completed 6-of-6 passes for 51 yards on the drive, including a 15-yard bullet to Georgia Tech commit, receiver Malachi Carter for a touchdown to give Mountain View an early 7-0 lead.
“I thought it was going to be a long night after that first drive,” Stewart said.
The opposite happened. The Bears had 51 yards of offense on their first possession, but just 68 total yards the rest of the game, including the Bulldogs defense limiting them to just one first down in the second half.
“We were just playing. We weren’t thinking about what we did before. We were just playing the next play,” McDonald said.
The senior got the defensive party going in the second quarter when he intercepted Edwards on an out-route, and took it the other direction for a 61-yard pick-six. On the ensuing kickoff, the Bulldogs forced a fumble, which led to a short 20-yard field goal by Cameron Clark for a 10-7 halftime lead.
0-7, 9:27- 15-yard touchdown pass from Mike Edwards to Malachi Carter
7-7, 10:56- 61-yard INT return for touchdown by Jayden McDonald
10-7, 8:09- 20-yard field goal by Cameron Clark
12-7, 7:54, Safety, Warren Burrell tackles punter in end zone
12-14, 1:04, 4-yard touchdown pass from Mike Edwards to Thomas Stewart
20-14, 7:20, 5-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Uzura to Bryce Fowler (2-point conv. Good)
27-14, 1:05, 4-yard touchdown run by Jimmy Uruza
Unofficial Player Stats:
QB Jimmy Uzura: 16/28, 163 yards, 1 touchdown; 4 rushes, -1 yards, one touchdown
RB Devin Crosby: 17 rushes, 96 yards
RB Cameron Butler: 14 rushes 34 yards
RB Tyler Goodson: 6 rushes, 31 yards
WR Josh Downs: 5 catches, 32 yards
WR Riley Walker: 4 catches, 48 yards
WR Bryce Fowler: 2 catches, 18 yards, 1 touchdown
QB Matt Edwards: 11/25, 75 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
RB Blake Carroll: 5 rushes for 27 yards
RB Enoch Walters: 4 rushes for 15 yards
WR Malachi Carter: 3 catches, 43 yards, 1 touchdown
WR Thomas Stewart: 3 catches, 18 yards, 1 touchdown