The first came in the third quarter of Friday’s Class AAAAAA quarterfinal with Mill Creek.
North Cobb had scored to cut its deficit to 21-14, but the Hawks had shaken that touchdown off and were on an efficient drive that saw them use nine plays to get to the Warriors’ 45-yard line.
On the 10th play of the drive, Jacorey Lewis — Mill Creek’s 2,000-yard rusher — broke through the line and appeared to be headed to a touchdown that would have given the Hawks a 14-point lead again. However, Gibbs caught Harris from behind at the 10-yard line and pulled the ball free.
North Cobb’s Emmanuel Slaughter fell on the ball at the 6-yard line and gave it back to the Warriors’ offense. Five plays later, the game was tied at 21-all.
“That’s just refusing to lose,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “They’re about to score, then you get the turnover and go down and score. That’s a 14-point swing.
“The players gain more confidence and you start to get the momentum.”
After the teams traded touchdowns again, the first play of the fourth quarter swung momentum completely into North Cobb’s favor.
Mill Creek was poised to reclaim the lead, but Gibbs broke in front of a Daniel David pass and intercepted it on the 5. It was the kind of play Queen said he’s come to expect from his junior standout.
“He’s had 12 to 15 pass breakups this year and (three) interceptions,” Queen said. “He made the two big plays of the game.”
The Warriors turned Gibbs’ interception into another 14-point swing —driving 95 yards in 10 plays for a 35-28 lead, and then adding an insurance touchdown for a 42-35 victory and a trip to the state semifinals next Friday at Lovejoy.
North Cobb outscored Mill Creek 35-14 in the second half. Thanks to Gibbs’ effort, and a total of six Mill Creek turnovers, Queen can now empathize with Hawks coach Shannon Jarvis.
Queen knows what can happen when the momentum turns in a close playoff game.
“It happened to us when we played Peachtree Ridge (in 2007),” Queen said about the team that came in to the playoffs 10-0 and ranked No. 1, only to have to play the defending state champion in the first round. “As soon as they get a little momentum, you can start to feel it coming. It’s not a good feeling as a head coach.”
With North Cobb winning, it means Cobb County will have a team in the state semifinals for a second straight season, after the appearance of Walton and Lassiter a year ago.
Allatoona and Walker had a chance to make it as many as three teams in the semis, but their seasons came to a close after their respective losses to Whitewater and George Walton.
The Buccaneers’ 24-3 loss marked the first time that they did not score a touchdown since the first program’s first varsity game on Aug. 29, 2008 — a string of 51 games.
The loss also marked the second straight season in which Allatoona’s season came to a close in the state quarterfinals, albeit this season in Class AAAAA. Last year, the Bucs were a member of Class AAA.
Walker, meanwhile, finally faced a team that was bigger and stronger than it was. The Wolverines fell behind early, mainly thanks to the 251 rushing yards of Georgia commitment Stanley Williams, and they were unable to recover.
The lone bright spots of the night came from seniors Mike Ramsay and Evan Kasian.
Ramsay scored the Wolverines’ only touchdown of the night on a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter, and Kasian rushed for 98 yards to put him over the 2,000-yard mark for the season. He completed the year with 2,080 yards and 27 touchdowns.