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Football: Preview of 2nd round playoff matchups
11182022 FB PREVIEWS
The North Forsyth student section cheers on the Raiders during a Class 6A first-round matchup against Blessed Trinity Nov. 11 at home. (Photo by Robin Patterson)

FCN Sports Pick Em Playoffs Round 2

Forsyth County News Sports team picks for the weekend of November 18, 2022

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Lambert at North Gwinnett

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium in Suwanee

Records, rankings: Lambert is 10-1, No. 2 seed from Region 6-7A, and ranked No. 9 in Class 7A; North Gwinnett is 9-2, No. 1 seed from Region 7-7A, and unranked in Class 7A

Series history: First meeting

What to know: It's an intercounty battle of Suwanee, as the two schools are separated by less than 10 miles, but it will mark the first-ever meeting between Lambert and North Gwinnett. The Bulldogs certainly have history on their side, with a strong recent track record of regular season and playoff success. North Gwinnett has missed the postseason just once since 2004, winning at least one playoff game in 15 of those 18 appearances. There have been nine region titles, nine quarterfinal berths and three trips to the finals during that span. The Bulldogs won the 2017 Class 7A state championship in the first season for current head coach Bill Stewart, defeating North Forsyth in the first round and edging Colquitt County in the title game. Meanwhile, Lambert is coming off its second-ever postseason win, blowing past Wheeler by a 45-14 margin. The Longhorns have been to the playoffs eight times in school history, but their only prior victory came against Central Gwinnett in the 2016 opening round. Last week, Lambert rushed for 326 yards, including 143 from Tommy Lafayette and 82 from Cam Bland. The duo combined for three rushing scores, including two by Bland on just four carries, with James Tyre and Carson Knowles also producing touchdowns on the ground. North Gwinnett will enter following a 37-7 rout of Dacula in the first round, which gave the Bulldogs their seventh straight win after back-to-back losses to Winter Park (Florida) and Parkview. Lambert, under the direction of first-year head coach Marc Beach, bounced back from a Week 12 loss to Milton that decided the Region 6-7A title to extend the program record for wins in a season to 10. Prior to this year, the Longhorns had finished 8-3 on three separate occasions and had actually won just seven games in 2016, when they captured their only region championship and playoff win.

North Forsyth at Hughes

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Cannon Field in Fairburn

Records, rankings: North Forsyth is 8-3, No. 2 seed from Region 8-6A, and unranked in Class 6A; Hughes is 11-0, No. 1 seed from Region 5-6A, and ranked No. 1 in Class 6A

Series history: First meeting

What to know: North Forsyth's reward for knocking off eight-point favorite Blessed Trinity, 24-21, in one of the best opening-round games across all classifications is a trip to face top-ranked Hughes. The Panthers finished runner-up in 6A last fall and became the prohibitive favorite to win it all this year as soon as reigning champion Buford got moved up to Class 7A. Hughes has been ranked No. 1 throughout the season, destroying teams at every turn. The Fulton County program's average final score is 53-9. The lowest number of points the Panthers have scored this year is 40; the most they have allowed is 21. Since 2010, Hughes' first season with a chance to make the playoffs (and second overall), the Panthers have won at least one playoff game in seven different years. However, their only quarterfinal berth besides last fall came in 2020. They also lost to eventual champion Buford then. As for North Forsyth, the Raiders are into the second round for the third time since their best-ever campaign in 2001. That year, North Forsyth captured its only region title and reached the state semifinals. The Raiders have never even been to the quarterfinals outside of that storybook season. Doing so this year will take a flawless performance. North Forsyth won't be able to overcome any turnovers or special teams miscues. The Raiders defense will need to avoid giving up big plays to Panthers quarterback Prentiss "Air" Noland, a junior with 16 offers from Power 5 schools. In its first postseason victory since 2019, North Forsyth received a solid showing from quarterback West Roberts, who finished 15-for-25 passing for 197 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception but more than canceled that out with a key rushing score on third-and-long to take the lead for good.