SUWANEE, Ga. -- While most of the media (and most of Atlanta, really) expected the Norcross-Peachtree Ridge matchup to be a showcase for the Norcross offense, the Peachtree Ridge Lions' defense had other plans, as they upset the Norcross Blue Devils 26-14 in a key Class AAAAA battle.
Going into the game, Norcross was ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 32 nationally in the Rivals.com Fab 50. The 26-14 win, the Lions' first-ever defeat of Norcross in their school's four-year existence, was the result of a stifling Lions defense and a porous Blue Devils line, proving that the Lions are a serious contender to defend their 2006 state championship.
After Norcross defeated Peachtree Ridge last year in the regular season, the Lions went on to claim a co-state championship with Roswell in Class AAAAA. The Lions were unranked coming into Friday's game, but that will almost certainly change in next week's polls.
Norcross brought a plethora of playmakers to Suwanee -- most notably Rivals.com four-star prospects Brice Butler and Devonta Bolton -- but Peachtree Ridge's defensive backs kept them at bay and gave the Lions' offense plenty of chances to make big plays.
Peachtree Ridge jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter before Norcross's Alex Nappers scored on a 99-yard kickoff return to close the gap to 10-7 -- the closest Norcross came to the lead for the remainder of the night. In the first half, Peachtree Ridge gained 214 yards on offense to Norcross' 12.
Norcross' star wide receivers were expected to be the difference in the game. But with Butler, who has committed to USC, and Bolton, an Alabama commit, held to minimal yardage by Peachtree's defensive backs, Lions quarterback Asher Clark took center stage as the game's top offensive player, throwing for 159 yards and rushing for 86.
The game was essentially decided in a span near the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. Following a Norcross punt, Peachtree Ridge drove for a TD with only 32 seconds left to extend the lead to 19-7. Then Norcross fumbled on the second half's first possession on its own 24-yard line. Just over a minute later, Peachtree Ridge's Brandon Davis ran 13 yards for a touchdown, increasing the lead to 26-7. Norcross was able to answer that score with just under six minutes left in the quarter, tallying the final points of the game.
The Lions' offense gained more than 450 yards, led by Asher (who completed 11 of 18 pass attempts), fullback Ronnie Smith (79 rushing yards) and Davis (50 rushing yards). Derrick Bryant also gained 81 yards on receptions.
"They played great, and we didn't play that well," said Norcross head coach Keith Maloof. "When you don't give your quarterback time to throw, you're not going to get [the ball] to your big guys."
Sorel threw three interceptions in the game and saw plenty of Peachtree Ridge DL Chris Carroll in the backfield. Through Week 4, Norcross had outscored its opponents 150-22 and Sorel had only thrown one interception.
Peachtree Ridge's stadium signage proudly displays that the Lions were last season's state champions, but that "2006" has a comma after it. Tonight, the Lions proved that they are a strong contender to add a "2007" to that sign.