NORTH FULTON, Ga. – The 2012 North Fulton high school football Players of the Year were both heavily recruited by elite Division I schools and spent their freshman seasons playing extensively for a pair of teams in the SEC.
The 2013 North Fulton high school football Players of the Year are not being heavily recruited by Division I schools, with one of them more likely to play lacrosse in college after he graduates in 2015.
You might not find Northview receiver Matty Biondich or Alpharetta linebacker Bryce Grauss near the top of any football recruiting lists, but the two players were hard to miss when playing for their respective teams this past season.
Biondich and Grauss are the North Fulton Players of the Year, with Grauss earning defensive honors and Biondich the area’s top offensive player.
Grauss, a senior, was the Defensive Player of the Year in Region 6-AAAAAA and spearheaded the defensive effort that led the Raiders to an undefeated region record and a victory in the first round of the state playoffs.
Although he was slowed by an injury late in the season, Grauss continued to play defense from sideline to sideline, making tackles all over the field, causing fumbles, intercepting passes and generally causing havoc for opposing offenses.
“If what you’re looking for is production and an impact on the game, I don’t think there’s been a better football player in North Fulton the last five years,” Alpharetta coach Jason Dukes said of Grauss.
In the Raiders’ playoff victory over South Gwinnett, Grauss did a little bit of everything despite having to come out of the game more than once due to a knee problem. He had multiple quarterback sacks, forced a fumble, blocked a punt, made a long interception return and simply would not allow Alpharetta to lose, with the Raiders coming away with the first playoff victory in school history.
“He made everything go,” Dukes said of the impact Grauss had on the Alpharetta defense.
Despite his efforts during the season, Grauss has not been a target of recruiters at the highest levels of college football, unlike 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Carl Lawson of Milton, who played extensively at defensive end as a freshman at Auburn.
“But as far as actual impact on a game – causing fumbles, pressuring the quarterback, making tackles in the backfield, you’d be hard pressed to find any defensive player more productive than Bryce was,” Dukes said.
At least Grauss (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) looks like a football player.
Biondich is all of 5-foot-7, 155 pounds and is likely to play lacrosse in college at West Point, having already committed to the U.S. Military Academy. Army, which rarely throws out of its triple option offense, would not have much use for Biondich’s football skills, which are impressive despite his slight stature.
The 2012 North Fulton Offensive Player of the Year, Alpharetta’s Joshua Dobbs, ended this past season as the starting quarterback at Tennessee.
Northview coach Chad Davenport needed only one word to describe the kind of season Biondich had for the Titans.
“Unbelievable,” Davenport said. “He does not drop anything.”
Biondich, a junior, compiled a highlight reel’s worth of amazing catches throughout the season, finishing with 75 receptions for 1,225 yards and 13 touchdowns, with his yardage total second in the state and first in AAAAA.
Even though opposing defenses knew the ball was going to Biondich in key situations, he managed to make one big catch after another, frequently down the field against double coverage.
“He runs very good pass routes, has great speed and tremendous concentration,” Davenport said. “And he’s a smart receiver. He knows how to break off the route if he has to and make an adjustment.”
Biondich had at least one touchdown reception in each of the Titans’ last nine games, and had at least 100 yards receiving seven times in 2013. Biondich also had a punt return for a touchdown and handled the punting duties for Northview, kicking a field goal in his only attempt.
With both Biondich and quarterback D.J. Pearson back next season, the Titans’ opponents in 6-AAAAAA will have a new pass threat duo to deal with after the graduation of all the region’s collection of standout receivers from the 2013 season.
Coach of the Year: Sharing honors as North Fulton Coach of the Year are Mount Pisgah’s Mike Forrester and Blessed Trinity’s Tim McFarlin.
Forrester helped guide the Patriots to the semifinals in the Class A private school division, where they lost 17-16 to Aquinas, which won the state title the next week with a 27-7 victory. Coming off a 6-5 season and a first round playoff loss in 2012 to the top-ranked team in the 16-team bracket, Mount Pisgah finished with a 12-1 record in Forrester’s first season as head coach.
McFarlin led the Titans to a third straight playoff berth in Class AAA, with BT capturing a region title against some very tough competition. The Titans, who faced playoff teams in all four of their non-region games, ended with a 9-4 record, reaching the quarterfinals before losing to state finalistWashingtonCounty. BT has won at least one playoff game in each of McFarlin’s three seasons as head coach.