B.J. Gibson blocks last-second field-goal attempt as Walton beats N. Gwinnett 31-28

(Recap by Stan Awtrey of the AJC)

Junior D.J. Soyoye powered in from the 1-yard line on fourth down to score the winning touchdown and give Walton a 31-28 come-from-behind win over North Gwinnett in the final game of the Corky Kell Classic at Georgia State Stadium.

The Raiders trailed by 14 points in the second half and were behind 28-24 when they took possession of the ball at their own 25 with 7:11 remaining. They kept it on the ground the rest of the drive and took the lead when Soyoye scored on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Soyoye had only 5 yards rushing in the first half, but finished with 131 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns.

The outcome wasn’t determined until the final horn. North Gwinnett drove to the 1 with one second left but Walton’s B.J. Gibson blocked Cameron Clark’s 20-yard field goal attempt at time expired to preserve the victory. Gibson came hard from Clark’s left and smothered the kick from the right hashmark.

The quarterback on the winning play was Avery Cybul, who was forced to enter the game when Austin Kirksey’s helmet came off on the previous play. Rules require a player to sit out a play when they lose their helmet. The handoff to Soyoye was Cybul’s only play at quarterback all game.

Kirksey enjoyed an outstanding debut. He completed 10 of 29 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 16 times for 44 yards.

North Gwinnett quarterback Cade Fortin, who has signed with Texas A&M, completed 15 of 21 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Fortin carried 16 times and gained 65 yards. Tyler Goodson rushed 12 times for 59 yards and one touchdown and caught five passes for 77 yards and one touchdown.

North Gwinnett opening the scoring on a 62-yard drive that ended on a Cameron Butler’s 9-yard touchdown run.

Walton answered by scoring on back-to-back possession to take a 14-7 lead. Austin Kirksey threw a pair of touchdown passes, a 17-yarder to Chandler Smith and a 25 yarder to Steven Francois.

North Gwinnett squared the game at 14-14 when Tyler Goodson dove in from the 3, stretching his arms to break the plane with 10:20 left in the half.

The Bulldogs then scored on a long pass as the second quarter ended. Fortin threw a 39-yarder that L.J. Fisher outfought the defender to catch, giving North Gwinnett a 21-14 lead.

North Gwinnett took a 28-14 lead when Fortin flipped the ball to Goodson, who went 31 yards for the touchdown.

Walton took advantage of a short field, starting at the 35, and scored with 4:33 left in the third quarter. Soyoye ran off the left side for a 4-yard touchdown.

The Raiders cut the lead to 28-24 with Jack Westbrook’s 20-yard field goal with 9:31 remaining. Walton had to settle for the kick after failing to convert on third-and-goal from the 3, with D.J. Turner knocking the pass away at 1.

The game marked the debut for North Gwinnett coach Bill Stewart, who came over from Etowah when Bob Sphire took the job at Camden County, and Walton coach Daniel Brunner, who was promoted from within the existing staff when Mo Dixon left to join the staff at Colquitt County.

The game, the last of five Saturday games in the Corky Kell Classic, didn’t start until nearly 10 p.m. The game ended at 12:59 a.m.

It was only the fifth time the two schools have played, the first since 2007 when North Gwinnett won 31-7. North Gwinnett leads the series 3-2.

Walton returns home next week to play Brookwood. North Gwinnett travels to play Milton.

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