Colquitt County’s 17-7 second-round playoff victory over North Gwinnett on a cold Friday night in Suwanee could only have been better if the Packers had pitched a shutout.
And they were just this far away from doing it.
The Bulldogs, who had averaged 37 points in their five previous games, had four tries from the Packers 2-yard line in the second quarter when Donnie Miles finally nudged the ball just the goal line.
There was some question among the Packers on the field about whether Miles, did, indeed, score the touchdown that led to a 7-0 North Gwinnett lead with 7:47 left in the first half.
But the signal was given quickly.
And, as it turned out, it was the only score the Bulldogs could manage against the smothering Colquitt County defense.
The Packers have now given up an average of just 12.4 points this season and just 17 in two playoff games.
And while that second-quarter fourth-down play paid off for North Gwinnett, another one in the third quarter did not, with dire consequences for the Bulldogs.
Colquitt had just tied the game when Willie Woodyard took a screen pass from Cole Segraves and galloped 75 yards for the Packers first touchdown. Oscar Luna’s conversion made it 7-7.
On North Gwinnett’s next possession, the Bulldogs elected to go for the first down on a fourth-and-1 at their own 29.
The Packers held, stacking up running back Joe Jones, and five plays later, Woodyard slashed in from the 8-yard line and the Packers had the lead.
Colquitt had three interceptions — two by E’Darius Davis and one by Dondray Copeland — the rest of the way to earn a trip to Kingsland to meet top-ranked Camden County next Friday in a quarterfinal game.
“I guess I'm going to be second- guessing myself on that for a while,” North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire told the Gwinnett Daily Post.
“I believe in our team and the ability to pick that up. I rolled the dice and came up snake eyes.”
For the second week in a row, the Packers ended the career of a fine high school quarterback by intercepting his final pass.
Against East Coweta in the first round, Stacey Blackwell picked off the last pass of the game of senior quarterback Garrett Schrepfer.
On Friday, E’Darius Davis picked off Bulldogs’ Scotty Hosch’s last throw.
Hosch went into the game having completed 188-of-269 passes, a 69.9 completion average, for 20 touchdowns. He hit just 17-of-34 for 102 yards as the Packers were content to let the Bulldog receivers — primarily Chad Scott, who had 12 receptions for 91 yards — catch the ball underneath and quickly knock them down.
Oh, and the three interceptions matched the total Hosch had thrown in his first 11 games this season.
Hosch was under siege much of the night and while he was sacked just twice, he was knocked down rudely on several other occasions.
The two sacks led to the Region 7-champion Bulldogs to being credited with just 79 net yards rushing on 37 carries and with the 102 passing yards.
The formidable North Gwinnett offense was held to just 181 yards, including only 97 in the second half.
The loss marked the fourth time in the last six years that a South Georgia team had ended North Gwinnett’s season.
In 2006, Tift County blanked the Bulldogs 13-0 in the quarterfinals. The next season, Lowndes won the state championship by beating North Gwinnett in the finals. In 2009, it was Camden County that ended the Bulldogs season with a 35-0 win in the quarterfinals.
The Packers sterling defensive effort could not have come at a more opportune time.
Packers coach Rush Propst had said the North Gwinnett defense would be the best his team faced this season and he was right.
Colquitt’s offense appeared out of sync, rushing for just 78 yards and throwing for 130 more.
Other than the screen pass that Woodyard took to the house, the only other appreciable gainer was a 32-yard halfback pass that Tre Cooper completed to Bobby Hill on the Packers second play of the game.
But Colquitt punted three plays later.
This the third straight season that the Packers have reached the quarterfinals by upsetting a favored opponent in the second round.
Two years ago, the Packers eliminated Stephenson 22-21. Last year, M.L. King was sent packing, 48-47.
According to the Georgia High School Football Daily, North Gwinnett was an 11-point favorite.
The Packers are likely to need more offense when they travel to Kingsland for the second time in three years to face the Wildcats.
Camden is 12-0 after whipping up on Marietta 48-7 on Friday.
Colquitt is now 9-2 in the postseason over the last three years and are 7-2 when they have been forced to play away from Tom White Field at Mack Tharpe Stadium.
One of those two road playoff losses was by a 19-10 score in the semifinals at Camden County in 2009.
The Wildcats won the state championship the next week, defeating Northside-Warner Robins 31-3.
PACKERS NOTES: Colquitt is the final Region 1-AAAAA team remaining after Lowndes was eliminated by Grayson 25-17. In other Class AAAAA second-round games, Dacula eliminated newnan 32-21; Lassiter defeated McEachern 20-17; M.L. King edged Brookwood 27-21 in overtime; Walston pounded South Cobb 42-7; and West Forsyth won over Hillgrove 40-28.
Thomas County Central’s season came to an end with a 31-21 loss to Flowery Branch; Cairo advanced with a 40-14 win over Stephens County; Cook fell to Elbert Conty 28-7; and Brooks was eliminated by Calhoun 43-30.