Widely considered the game of the day, the 8th Grade GFL (Gwinnett Football League) hosted Team Maryland in the FBU Semifinal to see who would be advancing to the National Championship.
GFL Quarterback Harrison Bailey and Running back Jerrol Hines both finished with two rushing touchdowns as they went on to defeat Maryland 33-20 in a back-and-forthfight.
The game started with both defenses stopping the other’s vaunted offense, which allowed GFL took advantage first. GFL ‘s running back Nicholas Burge had the first big play of the day with a 15-yard run. Later in the drive Jeremiah Cook rushed for 12 yards but fumbled the ball and Maryland’s Marshawn Lloyd recovered and returned it 73 yards to the nine-yard line.
GFL’s defense made a goal-line stand and stopped Team Maryland from entering the end zone. GFL’s Bailey then hit Michael Robertson on a quick slant for 15-yards giving them room to operate. GFL continued to march down field and Hines finished the drive with an 18-yard touchdown run, bringing the score to 7-0 with a little over five minutes to play in the first half.
GFL’s stout defense forced another quick punt and their offense went back to work. The running back dynamic duo of Mecose Todd and Hines helped the team drive down field. Bailey hit two passes on the drive, one to Robertson and Tyler Roach. Bailey capped off the drive with a sneak up the middle, making the score 13-0 with 40 seconds left in the half.
Maryland kicked the ball to GFL to start the second half and recovered the short kick, giving them the ball back. Blake Corum led the drive with a few key runs getting them to the two-yard line. Marshawn Lloyd finished the drive with a short sweep for a touchdown bringing the score to 13-6 with a little over six minutes in the third quarter.
Maryland’s defense forced a stop but their offense couldn’t get anything rolling. GFL got the ball back with great field position after a bad Maryland punt and they seized the momentum immediately. On their second play of the drive, Hines scored on an 18-yard touchdown run, bringing the score to 19-6 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
On Maryland’s next drive, looking to cut in the lead they went to the air. Clay Vance hit Joshua Dodd on a deep pass but the ball was knocked out of his hands as he hit the ground and the referees called it a fumble. On the very next play, GFL’s Cook scored on a 43-yard touchdown.
Still fighting, Maryland’s Lloyd scored an 80-yard touchdown run on their next possession. The score was now 26-14 with just 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
Maryland’s defense forced a stop and they got the ball back with great field position. A few plays later, Vance’s swing pass to Lloyd was intercepted by GFL’s Robertson, who returned it to the other 10-yard line. Bailey would go on to punch in another QB sneak pushing the score to 33-14.
On Maryland’s final possession, Vance hit Curtis Jacobs for a 23-yard touchdown pass, bringing the score to the game’s final of 33-20.
GFL’s Head Coach Ken Burge was pleased with the big win, but felt they could have played better.
“Our boys got a little complacent, they have to realize the level of competition they’re playing and not let up,” he said. “That was a very good team over there and a hard fought win. I’m proud of our group but we know we can do better.”
Coach Burge knows GFL will need to pull out their “A game” as they will face the tournament favorite’s North Texas in the National Championship at Naples High School at 7 p.m. The game will also be streaming live on ESPN3.
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