Leading up to their big Region 8-AAAAAA showdown against Lanier, Dacula coach Tommy Jones preached about the need to produce a physical effort. So for four quarters the Falcons followed orders and came away with a 41-7 win.
Dacula (5-4, 3-0) allowed Lanier to rush for only 71 yards and permitted 132 through the air, 55 of that coming on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass, and returned a interception for a touchdown. On offense the Falcons scored on six of their seven possessions – not counting runoffs at the end of the half and game. The scored on some explosive plays, three runs of 30-plus yards.
“This week we talked about playing with toughness and playing with love,” Jones said. “I thought our guys played not with just a physical toughness, but a mental toughness and an emotional toughness that shows a lot of maturity.
“It all came back to playing Dacula football. And when you have players who love each other and coaches who love each other and players who love coaches and coaches who love players … that’s a good formula for success.”
Dacula can win its second straight region championship with a win over Winder-Barrow next week. The Falcons can finish no worse than second. Lanier (5-4, 2-2) can guarantee itself a playoff spot with a win over Gainesville in the season finale.
Dacula quarterback Shayne Buckingham rushed 11 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns, scoring on runs of 33 and 7 yards. He completed 8 of 14 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown, a 6-yard toss to Kenny Severe, and was intercepted once.
Tre McMillian led the Falcons with 102 yards on nine carries and scored on a 60-yard run. Jalen Perry rushed five times for 84 yards and scored on a 45-yard run.
Dacula’s other touchdown came defensive back Chris Smith, who intercepted a pass and returned it for a 40-yard touchdown. That play came immediately after Dacula’s Tyler Lawary had a 42-yard pick-six negated because of offsetting penalties.
Lanier’s Kevonte Polk rushed for 49 yards, but was limited to only one double-digit gain. Quarterback Zack Calzada completed 10 of 18 passes for 132 yards and one touchdown and was intercepted once.
“Our defense had a great week of preparation,” Jones said. “We came out and played extremely well. The defensive staff made some great adjustments as the game wore on. It was a lot of effort.”
Dacula had its first scoring drive stopped late in the first quarter when Lanier’s O’Darion Thompson intercepted a pass at the 17.
After forcing Lanier to go three-and-out, the Falcons scored to take a 7-0 lead. Buckingham scored on a 33-yard read option with 19.1 seconds left to put Dacula ahead.
The Falcons went up 14-0 by scoring on its next possession. Buckingham moved the ball effectively with short passes to Severe and Deontaye Brown, but the points came when Millian got the corner and left a couple of defenders with some fancy cuts for a 60-yard touchdown run.
Dacula scored on its first possession of the second half on a Severe’s 6-yard touchdown reception and made it 27-0 when Buckingham scored on a 7-yard keeper up the middle.
Lanier scored its only points early in the fourth quarter on the 55-yard pass from Calzada to Mekal Fuller, who was wide open on the left side and scored easily.
Dacula responded with a 43-yard run by Perry on a sweep and finished the scoring with Smith’s 40-yard interception return.