North Gwinnett kicker Cameron Clark went from goat to hero, as his 38-yard field goal on an untimed down gave the Bulldogs a dramatic 19-17 win over Colquitt County in the Class AAAAAAA championship game at North’s Tom Robinson Stadium.
Clark missed an extra point on North’s go-ahead touchdown with 5:50 left and watched in horror as Colquitt County drove for a score with 49 seconds remaining in the game. Josh Hadley caught a 13-yard touchdown pass and Ryan Fitzgerald kicked the extra point for the 17-16 lead, putting Colquitt in position to win its third state championship in four years.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion,” Clark said. “We didn’t deserve that chance and somehow we got.”
North Gwinnett responded with some big pass plays to get into Colquitt territory. That’s when the Packers went on a penalty-laced binge that gave the Bulldogs a chance. There was a defensive holding call, two five-yarders for having too many men on the field and a pass-interference penalty that occurred as time expired. That gave Clark his chance at redemption.
“We practice low-time scenarios all t he time,” North Gwinnett running back Devin Crosby said. “We knew we were going to win. We knew he’s not going to miss twice. We all make mistakes, but as long as we bounce back from them, it’s not a problem.”
That allowed North to try a 38-yard field goal with no time on the clock. Clark, who had missed one field goal and made another, calmly lined up and kicked it through the goalposts, setting off a wild on-field celebration.
“There wasn’t much going through my mind,” Clark said. “I was just trying to focus as much as I could. My kicking coach, he tells me every day that it might come down to a game-winning kick and he puts me in those scenarios, so he was a big part of it.”
The victory was the first state championship in North Gwinnett history. The No. 5 Bulldogs (14-1) finished the season with 14 straight wins. No. 8 Colquitt County (11-4) was trying to win the state championship with five straight road playoff victories.
Colquitt County took the opening kickoff and drove to the North 32, where Ryan Fitzgerald kicked a 49-yard field goal to give the Packers a quick 3-0 lead. They were able to cross midfield only one other time in the half, but that drive was foiled when Jayden McDonald sacked Krajewski for a big loss and took the Packers out of field goal position.
McDonald, who has signed with Rutgers, paced the North Gwinnett defense with eight tackles and 2.5 sacks.
North Gwinnett’s only score in the half came midway in the second quarter. The Bulldogs drove to the 7, but had to settle for a field goal after losing 5 on a bad snap. Clark, who missed a 36-yard field goal wide left in the first quarter, was good from 23 and tied the game 3-3.
North Gwinnett took a 10-3 lead after driving for a score on its first possession of the third quarter. Goodson scored on a 19-yard run to complete a six-play scoring drive with 9:35 left.
After exchanging two punts, Colquitt County tied the game with 4:14 left in the third quarter, with Edwards running in from the 1.
Colquitt caught a break on the last play of the third quarter when a punt bounced off the back of a North Gwinnett player’s helmet and was recovered by the Packers. But the North Gwinnett defense stiffened and forced a punt.
It was Colquitt’s time to turn it over on its next possession. North’s Jayden McDonald stripped quarterback Steven Krajewski and the Bulldogs recovered. North then drove eight plays and took the lead on Tyler Goodson’s 1-yard run. That’s when Clark missed the extra point.
“It was my fault on that one,” Clark said. “Good snap. Good hold.”
North Gwinnett quarterback Jimmy Urzua completed 13 of 19 passes for 138 yards and one interception. Goodson rushed 19 times for 120 yards and one touchdown. Josh Downs caught six passes for 60 yards.
Colquitt quarterback completed 13 of 24 passes for 143 yards. Cam Singletary caught seven passes for 63 yards. Ty Leggett rushed 10 times for 57 yards.