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Posted: Thursday, August 15th 2013 at 9:35am

Football 2013: Tough schedule, changes create challenge for North Gwinnett

By Jeff Hart Staff


MASCOT: Bulldogs

TEAM COLORS: Red and Black


HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Bob Sphire, eighth season, 78-13

2012 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 11-2, second in Region 7-AAAAAA, Class AAAAAA quarterfinalist

KEY LOSSES: OL Alex Stoehr, RB Jonathan Lewis, RB Nick Andryusky, QB Michael Haynes, WR Russell King, C Andy Kwon, WR Cam Lewis, CB Donnie Miles, LB Jalen Brooks, Rover C.J. James, S Bobby Young, OL Devondre Seymour

OFFENSIVE STYLE: Spread -- coach Bob Sphire has made the five-wide receiver set a signature for the Bulldogs

KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Return 5 starters -- Sr. WR Nate Brown, Sr. WR Caleb Scott, Sr. OL Dre Smith, Jr. OL Mitch Hyatt, Jr. WR Almonzo Brown, Sr. QB Hayden Sphire, Sr. RB C.J. Leggett, Sr. Wesley Edwards, Jr. TE Daniel Immatorbhebhe, Jr. Jaye Stackhouse

DEFENSIVE STYLE: 3-5 -- the Bulldogs will shift around and show multiple fronts to try and confuse opposing offenses.

KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Return 5 starters -- Jr. DL Dante Sawyer, Sr. LB Carter Cross, Sr. LB Tony Bradford, Sr. S Bobby Young, Sr. CB Bryan Williams, Jr. DE Anree Saint-Armour, Jr. Rover Avery Elford

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sr. PK, P Michael D’Angola -- had 14 FG in 2012

STRENGTH: Skill positions -- Hayden Sphire should have plenty of weapons to throw too with a deep receiving corps of Nate Brown, Almonzo Brown, and tight end Daniel Immatorbhebhe. The kicking game also should be a big weapon with D’Angola, who has not missed an extra point since his sophomore year.

QUESTION: Inexperience on the offensive line -- It could be a factor early but senior Dre Smith and junior Mitch Hyatt should provide some leadership as the Bulldogs try to find the right pieces. Depth across the board also could be an issue as the numbers have dwindled over the years with the opening of Lanier.

KEY GAMES: The beginning of the season could tell a lot about the Bulldogs. They open the season at the Georgia Dome against Camden County, which also reached the third round of the 2012 playoffs, in the Corky Kell Classic. They will then travel to Grayson in a rematch of a playoff game from last year and then open 7-AAAAAA play on the road against defending state champion Norcross. They also have just four home games but get Collins HIll and Peachtree Ridge in two of the last three games at Tom Robinson Stadium.

TRENDING: The Bulldogs are in the midst of their most successful run in program history and have made the playoff every season under Coach Sphire. They should again be in the mix as one of the favorites to win the rugged 7-AAAAAA.

Aug. 24 vs. Camden County (Georgia Dome)
Aug. 30 at Grayson
Sept. 13 at Norcross
Sept. 20 vs. Meadowcreek
Oct. 4 at Duluth
Oct. 11 vs. Mill Creek
Oct. 18 at Habersham Central
Oct. 25 vs. Collins Hill
Nov. 1 at Mountain View
Nov. 8 vs. Peachtree Ridge
SUWANEE -- North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire is not one to back away from a challenge -- and his Bulldogs will once again face just that in 2013.

The Bulldogs, coming off an 11-2 season and a trip to the third round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs, lost their entire starting backfield and a majority of their offensive line to graduation. But Sphire said they are not looking back, only forward.

And he is hoping that a brutal three-game gauntlett to open the season will help propel them to another solid season. They open against Camden County at the Georgia Dome in the Corky Kell Classic, travel to Grayson -- a team North Gwinnett defeated in the playoffs last year -- and then open Region 7-AAAAAA play on the road against defending state champion Norcross.

“We may have the toughest schedule, not just in the state, but the nation,” he said. “We play seven teams that had a winning record last year and five playoff teams. And, we only have four home games. The first three games will tell us a lot. But we’re not banking the whole season on those.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs will have plenty of weapons at the skilled spots. The key will be retooling a young offensive line. Junior quarterback Hayden Sphire has the tough task of taking over for Michael Haynes, but he will have several talented receivers in seniors Nate Brown and Caleb Scott and junior Almonzo Brown, and junior tight end Daniel Immatorbhebhe to throw to. Senior C.J. Leggett, who is being recruited by FBS schools, is expected to get the bulk of the carries at running back.

“The key will be the maturation of the offensive line,” Sphire said. “If we find the right combination of guys I think we’ll be a very good offense.”

Defensively, the Bulldogs return five starters, including four of their front seven. The secondary should be outstanding with senior safety Bobby Young, senior cornerback Bryan Williams and junior rover Avery Elford in the backfield.

“We have a lot of speed and talent in the secondary, and I feel we’ll be good defensively from the beginning,” Sphire said. “The defense may carry us early and hopefully will give the offense a chance to find the right pieces. Overall, I expect us to get better with each game.

“The goal is to make the playoffs and try to win a state title. We have a tough schedule but I feel we’ll be there at the end of the season.”
Associated Categories: Friday Game Night

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