Dacula's Rocky Capobianco (5) tries to break away from the tackle of Parkview's Kyle Williams (21) during Friday night's game at Dacula.
Dacula's Brandon Goodson (8) dives in for a touchdown in front of Parkview defender Kurt Hickman (16) during Friday night's game at Dacula.
Dacula's defense led by Rocky Capobianco, top left, and Chase Loyd (26) make a stop to keep Parkview quarterback Jack Esmonde (12) out of the end zone during Friday night's game at Dacula.
Dacula's Zantavias Cobb (13) tries to elude the pursuit of Parkview's Kyle Williams (21) and Taylor Joy (34) during Friday night's game at Dacula.
DACULA -- After Davian McEwan's two big first-half plays, Dacula looked like it would coast to a season-ending win over Parkview. Instead, the Falcons needed the senior's late field goal to hang on.
A huge fourth-and-short stop late set up McEwan's clinching field goal as the hosts held off a furious comeback from a Parkview team that was fighting for its playoff life. The Falcons won 31-21 in a game that didn't matter to them in postseason seeding, while the Panthers fought to the end and would have made the playoffs with a victory.
"It's hard to play these games when they don't matter in terms of the playoffs, so I understand how that can happen," Dacula head coach Jared Zito said of Parkview's comeback. "I guess our kids thought Parkview was going to quit, but give credit to Parkview and those kids. They kept playing hard."
Dacula (7-3), which hosts Norcross in the Class AAAAA first round next Friday, led 28-0 late in the first half and went for more on a long halfback option pass. But the Panthers' Jordan Reid made a leaping interception on the bomb, stopping the Falcons and giving his own team some life.
The Panthers (4-6) scored in only five plays, the last an 18-yard touchdown pass from Jack Esmonde to Chris Carson with no time left in the first half. From there, the visitors kept the pressure on behind Esmonde (23 of 38 passing, 268 yards), Reid (11 catches for 144 yards) and Carson (104 rushing yards, three TDs).
"You can't spot them 21 and then start playing," Parkview head coach Cecil Flowe said. "We find a way to get behind 21 points and then start playing. You can't do that. ... But we showed we can play with anybody this season. We just couldn't quite put it together for a complete game."
Dacula lost a fumble on its third offensive play of the second half, setting up a 10-play Parkview scoring drive that ended on Carson's 2-yard TD run. Early in the fourth quarter, Carson cut the gap to 28-21 when he burst through the line for a 37-yard scoring run on fourth-and-2.
The Panthers' defense held again and the offense moved it to the Dacula 46-yard line, but Carson was stuffed on a big fourth-and-1 play. Sam Hurst and Chris Camarata surged underneath and a pack of their teammates finished the play over the top.
Dacula's offense, which had just 17 second-half yards at the time, then came to life. Rocky Capobianco, who rushed for a game-high 112 yards, led a time-draining march that ended with McEwan's 28-yard field goal with 2:29 left.
Parkview got back into Dacula territory on the ensuing possession, but turned it over on downs with 1:03 left.
"I'm proud of our kids, No. 1, when it mattered most, they made plays," Zito said. "They learned to bow their back this season. I'm proud that we're hosting (the playoffs) for the first time in six years and we're in the playoffs for the first time in three years. I'm proud that we're 7-3. Not many people would have thought that when we started the year 0-2."
Dacula took a 7-0 lead just three plays in on a 17-yard TD run by Marcus Cox, then Camarata's 52-yard fumble return set up a 1-yard TD run by Capobianco.
McEwan caught a 52-yard TD pass from Brandon Goodson and less than two minutes later, the senior returned a blocked punt 43 yards for a score and a 28-0 first-half lead. B.J. Clay blocked the punt.
That led was enough to give Dacula the win. Barely.