The Warriors chose to turn their water bottles upon their own elated student section in the final seconds of a 38-0 rout of Campbell on Friday, which clinched the program its first region title since 2007 and just the fourth of a history that stretches back more than a half-century.
For North Cobb’s efforts, it will host the No. 4 seed of Region 2AAAAAA, in a first-round playoff game next week on campus, where it’s won 12 of its last 13 games over the past two years. The Warriors’ opponent won’t be determined until today, after Newton — one of the contending teams in its region — and Morrow play.
“I’m excited for these kids,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “It’s a lot of hard work, football. People don’t realize it’s 365 days a year, and you finally get rewarded Game 10 of the season, so I’m so proud of our kids.”
To solidify its claim to supremacy in a loaded Region 4AAAAAA, North Cobb (8-2, 7-1) first had to slow down the region’s most prolific rusher. Campbell tailback Mike Rogers entered the season finale with 1,644 rushing yards and 25 total touchdowns, but he was held to just 76 yards on 23 carries and stuffed on multiple fourth-down plunges by a stout North Cobb defense that allowed 17 points or less in seven of its 10 regular-season games.
“We knew we had to make (Rogers) earn everything he got,” Queen said of the Spartans’ Central Florida-bound back. “He’s going to get his yards. He’s one of the top players in the country, but what we told our kids was we can’t let him break the 70-, 80-yard runs, and I think we were able to do that.”
The Warriors came away with points on their first three drives of the game, thanks to a balanced offensive attack and a steady diet of bruising tailback J’Vonte Herrod, but it was Jeremy Bell’s standout play on special teams that truly broke the game open midway through the second quarter.
Bell broke free to block a punt deep in Campbell territory, collected the bouncing ball and strolled into the end zone to bring North Cobb’s lead to 24 just over 3 minutes before halftime.
Herrod finished with 96 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, outshining his counterpart, Rogers, who finished his season with 1,720 rushing yards. Quarterback Tyler Queen and wideout Torrance McGee each added rushing touchdowns to punctuate a dominant performance by the North Cobb offensive line.
“I don’t think we played our best (Friday) at the end of the season, but North Cobb’s a heck of a football team,” said Campbell coach Harris Rainbow, whose team ended 4-5 overall and 2-6 in region play. “They’re No. 1 in our region, in what I think’s one of the best regions in the state, and it ain’t ever easy when you play those guys.”
Spartans receiver Marlon Horne eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the season by hauling in a 49-yard reception in the third quarter, finishing with five catches for 81 yards to push his final total to 1,018 yards, the most in the county.
Horne’s milestone was a mere footnote to a coronation, as North Cobb responded with a flourish after last week’s three-point loss at home to Marietta.
A second consecutive loss Friday would have taken the Warriors’ playoff seeding out of their control, but after a dominant opening offensive drive and fourth-down defensive stands on Campbell’s first two possessions, there was little doubt that North Cobb would cruise to its hard-fought region title.
“We lost 29 seniors off last year’s team that went to the final four, had to replace nine starters on defense, and come back and beat the McEacherns, the Hillgroves,” Shane Queen said. “Our region is just so tough from top to bottom, and I’m just proud of this group of young men because nobody gave us a chance to start the season.”