SNELLVILLE - Satisfied with his football team's gutsy 23-17 win at Brookwood on Friday night, Dacula head coach Kevin Maloof was asked about Andre Sims.
"Is he a senior?" the veteran coach asked.
When told the Bronco speedster was just a junior, Maloof just shook his head. He had watched Sims and teammate Ben McLane chew up the Brookwood record book in the Region 8-AAAAA showdown, but in the end it was his defense that made the biggest plays in a win that bumped the Falcons up to third place in the region standings.
Dacula, on the heels of blanking Shiloh and holding Parkview to six points in an overtime game, even got a defensive touchdown that proved to be huge as Skyler Richardson scored on a 44-yard interception return late in the third quarter.
"Three straight weeks in a row our guys have played outstanding defense," Maloof said. "Our defensive front has been outstanding. I don't know how many yards (Brookwood) ran for, but it couldn't be many."
The host Broncos (4-4, 4-2) broke from tradition on offense, passing for 11 of their first 13 plays. When they tried to run against Dacula's stout front, it didn't work well.
Counting four sacks of McLane, Brookwood finished with minus-9 rushing yards on 21 attempts. Alan King was the top rusher with eight yards.
"We came out strong," Richardson said. "We gave up some big plays there at the end but we kept on fighting and got the win."
Dacula (5-3, 4-2) rode its defense much of the night, getting just two first downs on offense in the second quarter and none in the third, running behind an offensive line that started three sophomores.
The Falcons still led 10-0 at halftime after scoring on their first possession, thanks to a 58-yard run by Aashad Holloway on the game's third play, and a 23-yard field goal by Chase Loyd. Loyd's kick followed a drive that was aided by two personal fouls, a facemask and an offsides penalty on the Broncos. Dacula also overcame a chop block, a holding call and a false start on the march.
Brookwood got to the Dacula 4-yard line with nine seconds left in the first half and no timeouts, and lined up for a Travis Falcon field goal. The Broncos faked it, but Darien Lane tripped up Keenan Harp and ended the half.
McLane was 6 of 7 passing for 50 yards on the second half's first series, setting up a 40-yard field goal by Falcon. Brookwood's defense then regained possession, only to see Richardson pick off McLane and run it 44 yards for the score and a 17-3 lead.
An Elijah Mahaley sack ended Brookwood's next drive and set up a Dacula scoring drive that ended with Rocky Capobianco's second 1-yard scoring plunge. But fellow quarterback Andy Agudelo had the key play on a 31-yard scramble as the Falcons built a 23-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.
"That was a big momentum turn," Richardson said of his interception. "They gave up a little bit, but they came back flying at us."
Did they ever.
The Broncos did it with the passing game, most notably with the combo of McLane and Sims. Sims' 51-yard punt return sparked his team, setting up his own 13-yard TD catch.
Brookwood, which again didn't get much action from injured playmaker Julian Suber, recovered an onside kick and went on a scoring march that closed with a 1-yard McLane run.
McLane broke school single game records for completions (25), attempts (38) and yards (266), while Sims set Bronco records for catches (10) and receiving yards (153). He even had another diving 30-yard catch called back by a holding penalty.
But those two didn't get their hands on the ball again after McLane's sneak with 2:31 left. The Brookwood defense forced Dacula in a fourth-and-3, and the Falcons set up to punt before calling timeout.
Out of the timeout, they elected to go for the first down and caught the Broncos for an illegal substitution as their special teams unit was still getting off the field when Dacula snapped the ball.
From there, the Falcons ran out the clock and held on for a big win.
"Our kids made plays all night long," Maloof said. "They have been outstanding."