Photo: Karl L. Moore Dacula's Chris Camarata (42) tackles Newnan's Hosea Connally (5) in the endzone on a punt return as the referees ruled forward progress at the 1 yard line during Friday night's playoff game at Dacula.
Highlights from Dacula's 32-21 win over Newnan in the second round of the state football playoffs on Nov. 18, 2011.
Photo: Karl L. Moore Dacula's Rocky Capobianco (5) runs through the arm tackle of Newnan linebacker Tonaris Portress (24) during Friday night's playoff game at Dacula.
Photo: Karl L. Moore Dacula Head Coach Jared Zito congratulates Defensive Coordinator Gary Hughes on their win over Newnan in Friday night's playoff game at Dacula.
Photo: Karl L. Moore Dacula running back Marcus Cox (9) takes the handoff from Rocky Capobianco as Ryan Malizia (77) and Alex Armah (21) look to open a hole during Friday night's playoff game against Newnan at Dacula.
Dacula vs. Newnan highlights
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* Additional Game Action
DACULA -- Dacula was firmly in control of Friday night's Class AAAAA second-round game, on the verge of a lopsided final score, when it started slipping away.
Two bad turnovers started the slide, then two questionable pass interference penalties that aided a Newnan scoring drive added to the Falcons' woes.
With its lead down to three points, the resilient Dacula football team battled back, much like it has all season, and sealed a 32-21 victory over Newnan in the Class AAAAA second round on a late 45-yard touchdown run by Marcus Cox. The Falcons (9-3) advance to play at unbeaten Walton in next Friday's quarterfinals, their first trip this deep in the playoffs since 2005.
"At the end of the day, we found a way to win," first-year Dacula head coach Jared Zito said. "We had some bad luck (in the second half), but we're not going to let anything shatter us. We didn't let the (0-2) start to the season shatter us. We're not going to let a couple of turnovers and penalties stop us."
After Morgan Loyd intercepted a Newnan pass midway through the third quarter, the Falcons went on a 12-play scoring drive capped by Rocky Capobianco's 1-yard scoring run. The TD by Capobianco, who had 35 carries for 162 yards, put the hosts up 24-7 with 1:05 left in the third.
At that point, Newnan (6-6) had struggled mightily except for a 64-yard TD pass to open the third quarter when Dacula missed a tackle in the flat. The trend continued when the Cougars went three-and-out on the next possession.
But the Falcons gave the visitors seven points when they fumbled directly to Newnan's Tray Matthews, who raced 39 yards for a TD with 10:30 left. The Cougars closed to 24-21 with 4:15 left in the game on Nick Smith's 32-yard TD pass to Jalen Bolton and suddenly the Falcons were in a dogfight.
"We bowed our necks," Dacula senior and two-way starter Alex Armah said. "We just had to stay focused, bear down and do our jobs."
After recovering an onside kick, Dacula did that. On a third-and-5, Cox broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and raced 45 yards down the home sideline for the clinching score.
Armah caught a two-point conversion pass from Capobianco for the 32-21 lead, then Dacula got a four-and-out and ran out the clock. The Falcons' defense gave up just 14 of those points, holding Newnan to 49 rushing yards and 11 of 26 passing for 158 yards.
"We know how to step up," Armah said. "We have a big group of seniors who lead the team. We're really close. We've been playing together for a long time."
Dacula was in complete control after two quarters, taking a 17-0 halftime lead and holding the Cougars to 49 total yards on 24 offensive plays.
On their second possession, the Falcons drove 93 yards in 11 plays for the game's first score. Capobianco provided 68 of the yards, working mostly out of a Wildcat formation, and finished it off with a 6-yard scoring run with 42 seconds left in the second quarter.
Newnan spent the rest of the first half in horrible field position thanks to the Dacula defense, which gave the Falcons short fields for two scoring drives. The first was a 31-yard field goal by Davian McEwan and the second was a 9-yard strike from Brandon Goodson to Cox with only 20 seconds remaining before halftime.
It looked like the rout was on. But the Falcons like to make things interesting.
"They've just got the heart that Dacula football's always played with," Zito said of his players. "They have that it factor. They believe in each other."