The Warriors made it back to the state semifinals for the first time since 1959 and earned their first playoff win since that season. This year also gave coach Shane Queen his first playoff win a 13-year career as a head coach, and the Warriors had their first winning season since their undefeated regular-season mark in 2007.
North Cobb’s 63-42 loss to Lovejoy in Friday’s semifinal, after jumping ahead early, still stings for the players who took the field. But after finishing with an 11-3 record and making history in the process, the 2012 season could be the foundation for North Cobb for years to come.
“In the beginning of season, we had goals to go the (Georgia) Dome and win state,” senior receiver Xavier Borishade said. “I feel good about (this season). I think we could have done better ending it, but we stayed together and did what we had to do.”
In its game at Lovejoy, North Cobb had a two-touchdown lead at the beginning of the second quarter, and it was 25 yards away from adding another.
But just when it seemed they could possibly get past the Wildcats with a lopsided score, the game quickly took an unexpected turn and the Warriors found themselves trailing by two touchdowns early in the third quarter.
While North Cobb did fight back some in the second half, Lovejoy never let off the gas.
“We learned that this season can go by very fast,” said Cameron Albright, a wide receiver and defensive back. “You need to love every game and every practice week of preparation because it can get taken from you real fast.”
Once North Cobb took a 21-7 lead on a 21-yard run by J’Vonte Herrod, it was back on the Lovejoy 25-yard line threatening to score again. But it lost that opportunity on an interception, which led to a Lovejoy touchdown four plays later. The Wildcats went on to tie it at 21-all with a touchdown on fourth down.
Then, once Lovejoy began applying more pressure on North Cobb quarterback Tyler Queen, and creating more running room for its running back, Travis Custis, who finished with 291 yards and five touchdowns, the Wildcats took control.
Albright, who came up big in North Cobb’s quarterfinal-round rally over Mill Creek — throwing for a touchdown, intercepting a pass and recovering a fumble — is expected to return next season and is eager to pick up where North Cobb left off in 2013.
Tyler Queen is probably thinking the same thing. Although he would love to have his four interceptions against Lovejoy back, those miscues won’t take away from a banner season in which he led the North Cobb offense with both his arm and his legs.
Queen, Albright and Herrod will likely be the offensive leaders next season and will use the 2012 campaign as a bar for the younger players to follow.
“We’re going to use this game as a standard of where we want to be next season,” Albright said. “I think we can get back to the semifinals, or even past that.”
Albright will likely have a larger role at receiver next season with standout receivers Borishade and Nick Miller graduating. Both had touchdown catches in their final games, and Borishade also scored on a 78-yard kickoff return late in the game.
North Cobb will also have to replace defensive players such as linebackers Hakeem Sawyer, Keonne Rives and Shaun Daniels, and linemen Eghosa Agbonghae and Kelvin Ume, but it’s expected to have cornerback Latrelle Gibbs back to provide an effective tandem with Albright in the secondary.
Borishade may be a difficult receiver to replace, but he’s not concerned about the team’s status for next season with many key players graduating.
“There’s been a lot of talk about us leaving — ‘North Cobb won’t be as good,’” Borishade said. “They’ll be just as good if we continue to work just as hard as we did this year. With us showing that we’re capable of doing things, they should be able to go out for a repeat.”