The last time Dacula and Meadowcreek played in varsity football, Kevin Maloof was on the sidelines.
He was a young head coach at Meadowcreek back then, when his Mustangs lost 22-21 to the Falcons in 1987.
He's on the sidelines again tonight as a veteran coach, in his 18th season as Dacula's head coach. He wants his football team to earn a victory tonight as a spark for next week's state playoffs, even if it comes at the expense of Meadowcreek, a school he still cares deeply about.
Maloof started the Mustangs' football program in 1986 and led Meadowcreek to winning records his final three seasons from '88 to '90. Those three are still the only winning records in Meadowcreek history and Maloof's tenure also included the school's only playoff berth in '88.
The coach hurts for Meadowcreek's hard times over the last decade.
"No doubt about it, Meadowcreek still is a special place for me," Maloof said. "It's always been a place where I'm looking at their score every week to see how they did. I like to keep up with the things they're doing over there, when they built their stadium and things like that."
Meadowcreek's perils have been well documented in recent years. The program hasn't won more than one game in a season since 2001, and sported a county-record 43-game losing streak earlier this season.
The Mustangs broke that spell with a win over Duluth, part of a season that has seen them play more competitive than they have in years. It's been a good tryout for interim head coach Terrone Owens, who took over for Reggie Perry just prior to Meadowcreek's season opener.
"I really like what they're doing on offense, they've got a good plan," Maloof said. "Offensively, they're very good."
Dacula has done pretty well this season, too.
Despite going 0-3 against a tough early-season schedule, the Falcons have rallied to lock up a state playoff berth. Except for an upset loss to Shiloh on Oct. 17, they have played well in the region, defeating Parkview 21-0 and falling to Brookwood in overtime.
Not bad for a team that moved up after spending the last two years in Class AAAA because of enrollment losses to other high schools.
"Our expectations are high, even though we've lost a lot of kids to new schools," Maloof said. "I've got to believe we're one of the most successful programs that have been depleted by new schools. I'm proud of that. I'm proud of our kids' hard work."
SideBar: Meadowcreek at Dacula
Meadowcreek Mustangs (8-AAAAA)
Coach: Terrone Owens
Record: 1-8, 0-7 region
Last week: Lost to Central Gwinnett 35-9
Dacula Falcons (8-AAAAA)
Coach: Kevin Maloof
Record: 4-5, 4-3 region
Last week: Beat Berkmar 17-3
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Dacula won 22-21 in 1987
Directions to Dacula High School: From Highway 316, go north on Highway 8 approximately one mile and school is on the left.