Posted: Wednesday, August 27th 2014 at 4:10pm
Urzua already making a mark for North Gwinnett
By Jeff Hart Staff
North Gwinnett quarterback John Urzua prepares to handle a snap during the Bulldogs' win over McEachern on Saturday in Powder Springs. / photo: Submitted
SUWANEE -- North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire insists that the success of the Bulldogs’ version of the spread offense is more than just the system.
But Sphire, who also doubles as the quarterbacks coach, is working on his fourth quarterback in as many seasons with senior John Urzua. Yet, despite rapid-fire turnover at the most critical position on the field, nothing seems to change for the Bulldogs.
Urzua is following Hayden Sphire, Scott Hosch, and Michael Haynes as one-year starters for North Gwinnett.
In the Bulldogs’ season-opener last week against preseason Class AAAAAA No. 1 McEachern, Urzua showed off his skills, tossing seven touchdown passes and throwing for 498 yards in leading North Gwinnett to a thrilling, and stunning, 52-49 victory on the Indians home field in the Corky Kell Classic. His final TD throw proved the game-winner with just nine seconds remaining.
Sphire also insists each quarterback has brought something different to the team. But he had some extra praise for Urzua after his performance on Saturday.
“He’s just got ice water in his veins,” Sphire said. “He never seemed nervous out there and just kept the offense going. Of the last four guys here, he’s probably got the quickest release. He’s also the best I’ve seen with arm speed and accuracy without having his feet set.
“A lot people think it’s the system but it’s not just the system. The players have to know what they’re doing to make things work. John knows his checkdowns and makes good decisions. He’s fun to watch.”
Before the McEachern game, only Southern Illinois had sent Urzua an offer. Less than two days afterwards, Middle Tennessee has already sent an offer and more are sure to follow.
Urzua said he’s just trying to take things in stride.
“Really, I just approached (the McEachern) game like any other game. I did the same pre-game stuff I do for every game,” Urzua said. “I’ve never really gotten that nervous before a game. But I think it hit me a little bit on the opening kickoff just because I realized all the pressure was on me now to lead the team. But once we called the first play it was like any other game.”
It was just his third career start -- he started twice last season when Hayden Sphire was recovering from an injury -- but he's already in some rarified air among all-time Georgia quarterbacks. The seven TD passes was the third-best single-game total in Georgia history.
Current Georgia Bulldog Hutson Mason of 2009 Lassiter (vs. South Gwinnett) and Jeremy Privett of 2003 Charlton County (vs. Pierce County) each tossed eight in a game. The all-time record is nine, set by Ed Staten of North Whitfield in 1962.
“That’s kind of cool,” he said. “But really we didn’t set out to throw that many touchdown passes. They really just came on routine plays and the guys made some great catches and got into the end zone. I’d be happy if I didn’t throw any and we won the game.”
Sphire said Urzua’s team-first attitude is one of his strengths.
“He leads by example,” Sphire said. “He’s very calm. He’s like a cardiac-surgeon who knows he's got a life in his hands. He has to make the right decisions when things aren’t going well to save the patient.
Urzua said he savored the moment for a day but when Monday came around it was time to focus on the present and North Cobb -- which visits Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium Friday night. But he said there will be one play he’ll take with him forever from the McEachern game.
“That last play will probably be the one I remember most,” he said. “The clock was winding down, the fans were going crazy, but everyone just seemed so calm on the field, like they knew we were going to score. When I saw Kyle (Knudsen) break open I just threw it to him. It was a great feeling.”
Urzua said he hopes last week’s victory will be the catalyst for another deep playoff run. The Bulldogs advanced to the Class AAAAAA title game in 2013.
“No one gave us a chance to win that game. We had a lot of new guys on the line and we lost some great players from last year,” he said. “But we worked hard in the off-season and felt we could be good. A win like that is a big boost and it has already brought this team a lot closer. If we keep improving, I think this team has a chance to go far.”
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