DACULA - The stage was set for Dacula placekicker Chase Loyd to be a hero.
Instead, the glory went to holder Jake Brown.
Trailing 23-21 against rival Mill Creek with 12 seconds to play, Dacula lined up for a game-winning 41-yard field goal attempt when things quickly went wrong.
The snap to Brown was low but he quickly scooped up the loose ball, made a move to his left and cut back across the field, outrunning the Mill Creek unit and scampering in for the 41-yard touchdown run as the clock ran to zero to give the Falcons (1-0) an unlikely 27-21 win over the Hawks.
"As soon as I saw it on the ground, I picked it up and did the best I could," Brown said. "I tried my hardest and it turned out great. This is a great way to start the season and could turn out to be the biggest win of the year."
What made the win even more unlikely was that Mill Creek jumped to a 16-0 lead midway through the second quarter off a pair of John Russ TD passes, one a 51-yard strike to Brandon Hayman and the other a 23-yard catch and run from running back Tyler Cierski. The Hawks also got two more points off a safety.
Dacula answered with seven big points in the closing minutes of the first half, recovering a Mill Creek fumble on the free kick after the safety and punching it in with 1:17 in the second off a 1-yard TD plunge from Dexter Walker, cutting the score to 16-7 at the half.
"We made enough mistakes in the first half to last us the whole season," Dacula head coach Kevin Maloof said. "But I just love our kids' character. Being down 16-0 in the first half of the first game, we could've just given up."
The momentum from that late score in the first half carried over into the third quarter when Rocky Capobianco, one of two Dacula quarterbacks to see action, ran left on a veer and made the right read, keeping the ball and racing in 40 yards for the TD, bringing the Falcons to within two at 16-14.
Mill Creek came right back later in the period when Russ notched his third TD of the night, once again finding Hayman, this time on a 34-yard completion. Russ finished the night 8 of 13 for 126 yards with three TDs and one interception.
Hayman was his favorite target, hitting the junior three times for 90 yards and two scores.
Down 23-14 headed into the fourth, Dacula again pulled to within two when Walker scored his second TD of the night, this time on a 3-yard TD run to cap off a 13-play, 80-yard drive.
Mill Creek had a chance to run the clock out with when it took over from its own 47 with 3:18 to play after hold the Falcons on fourth down.
The Hawks (0-1) picked up one first down but with exactly 60 seconds to play, Cierski fumbled on the Dacula 30 and Brandyn Bartlett, who also had an interception, recovered it.
Dacula quarterback Andy Agudelo, who finished with 85 yards on 6 of 15 attempts, completed two big passes on the final drive to help get the Falcons into field goal range.
"Everybody pulled together as a family," Agudelo said. "We believed in each other and that's what families do."