NORCROSS, Ga. - In a big game setting on Friday night, a big-time player came to play. Four-star wide receiver Brice Butler lived up to his ranking this weekend with an all-around performance that catapulted his team into the playoffs as a top seed. In a tightly contested game, Norcross, Ga. defeated Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett 24-14 to tarnish North Gwinnett's unbeaten record and take home a second consecutive region crown.
A short hitch route started the night for Butler on Norcross' first possession, but there wouldn't be another catch on the night for Butler that wasn't a huge gain or a touchdown. The Southern California commit finished the night with 5 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns, most of which came in the first half.
On Norcross' second possession of the game, with the score tied 7-7, Butler made a double move on a defender to get open down the sideline for a 39-yard gain. Butler wasn't done there. Just a few plays later Butler went back to work on a defense that couldn't cover him all night long. He showed great ball-skills in pulling down a 21-yard touchdown grab on a fade route to the end zone, putting his team up for good.
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Butler would score again in the second quarter on a double move for a 33-yard touchdown grab and proved that he may have a future coaching after his playing career is done.
"The play that I scored on down here and the play that I caught earlier, I put that play in." Butler said after the game. "I like that a lot. I like double moves a lot."
Butler showed great ability to get open and some very polished route-running with good hands. Most of his damage was done off of the vertical route as all of his catches came either off of the fade, the double move, or the comeback route. Because of his ability to get open, he has the potential to be an early contributor in college.
However, there was one other factor that contributed to Butler's big night and that was the night of junior running back D.J. Adams. Adams rushed for 214 yards on the night and forced North Gwinnett to defend Butler with one defender which was something that proved lethal.
The contribution wasn't lost on Butler.
"Run game opened it because they had to keep their safety in the box.," Butler said. "They couldn't try to double team me at all so I thank the run game for that very much."
Butler wasn't satisfied putting up big numbers on the offensive end alone. With Norcross up by 10 points and the game still very much in doubt late in the fourth quarter, North Gwinnett was forced to go for it on 4th down.
Butler, who had entered the game as a cornerback for the series, made a clutch tackle just shy of the first down marker, effectively sealing the win for the Blue Devils. Minutes later with one final desperation possession, Butler intercepted the game's final pass.
"They got me working at corner when we play a passing team or they need me to go in man coverage or it's a close situation," he said. "My dad play corner so he taught me a lot."
Big night for Adams: Junior running back D.J. Adams set the tone for Norcross on the first possession of the game. He showed good wiggle in the open field and runs with a low center of gravity that makes him tough to tackle solo. After breaking of a long run early in the possession, he kicked off the scoring with a 46-yard touchdown run.
The North Gwinnett defense had trouble defending Adams without stacking the box and bringing multiple defenders to the line of scrimmage. Any time the defense backed off, Adams would break a long run.
"We got a one two punch that I think nobody can stop," Adams said. "We got a one-two punch also with Devonta (Bolton), Alex Napier all of them. We can run and pass we can beat you either way."
Busy Bolton: Four-star Alabama commit Devonta Bolton is a busy player for Norcross. The versatile athlete rarely comes off the field for the Blue Devils. He is listed as an athlete because of his size and speed that allows him to play so many positions. On defense for Norcross he spends most of his time at strong safety, but he has the speed and hands of a wide receiver with the body to play tight end, safety or outside linebacker.
While Bolton didn't have the big gains of Butler, he did show good hands on some quick hitters in the pass game and forces teams to stay honest.