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's 32-21 win over Newnan in the Class AAAAA second round was played without a working scoreboard, which sat blank in darkness behind the school's concession stand.
It functioned properly during the previous Saturday's Gwinnett Football League youth championship games and was getting power for Friday night's playoff game, but nothing lit up on the scoreboard all night. School officials guessed that the board itself was damaged during this week's storms.
The coaches didn't have many issues with not having the time on the scoreboard, but it was a nuisance to the players and fans, who chanted to the field "How much time is left?" multiple times late in the game. The Dacula announcer got occasional times radioed up from the field that he passed along to the crowd, but it wasn't frequently enough for the fans' liking.
"We had a good clock (official) on our sideline and he was good about letting us know, so it didn't bother the coaches," Dacula head coach Jared Zito said. "It was difficult for the players because they all wanted to know how much time was left. It was driving them crazy."
Both teams in Grayson's 25-17 win over Lowndes were quite adept at coming through in clutch, fourth-down situations.
The No. 2 state-ranked Rams converted both times when they went for it on fourth down -- they lined up for a play on a third occasion in the fourth quarter, but punted after failing to draw Lowndes offside -- with both drives winding up with Robert Nkemdiche touchdown runs.
The Vikings, meanwhile, were even more effective.
They actually scored on their first attempt on fourth and goal from the 3 in the first quarter, only to have the TD negated by a penalty before settling for a field goal.
Lowndes then converted on three straight fourth-down plays -- two completions and a scramble by quarterback Lance Jarriel -- on a 15-play, 73-yard scoring drive that pulled the Vikings to within one score in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings were then was successful on another fourth-down play on their final drive before a final fourth-down play came up short on an incomplete pass on the game's final play.
"That little quarterback (Jarriel) had a lot of heart (on fourth-down plays)," Grayson coach Mickey Conn said. "I'm just glad the clock ran out."
North lives and dies on fourth down
North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphire has faith his team came pick up a first down on any play.
That's why the Bulldogs' head coach routinely goes for it on fourth down. It worked early in Friday's game against game Colquitt County. The Bulldogs converted a fourth-and-goal at the one on Donnie Miles' touchdown run.
But North didn't have much success after that. North was 3-for-7 on fourth down in Friday's 17-7 loss to Colquitt County.
The Bulldogs failed to convert fourth-and-one at their own 30. That resulted in Colquitt scoring the go-head touchdown.
"It was a momentum changer," Colquitt County head coach Rush Propst said. "Bob made right the right call. I think I would have gone for it, too. I think he thought the defense was wearing down. We would have gotten good field position anyways."
North went for it on third down late in the third quarter again, but Scotty Hosch was intercepted at the three-yard line. After the Packers took a 17-7 lead in the fourth quarter, North need a fourth down conversion with less than three minutes in the game. Hosch was intercepted for a third time to end any kind of comeback.
It's hard to look at 346 yards passing and make the leap to a great defensive effort.
But that big number isn't the story of the Broncos' unit in the season-ending loss to M.L. King. It's easy to see the final touchdown with 9 seconds. Easier still to look at the three touchdowns thrown by Jonquel Dawson. But this was a defense that didn't allow a point in the first half, including a sack near the goal line by Ty Alston. It picked off Dawson three times. And one of the touchdown drives started on the Brookwood 36.
Before overtime, the defense held the unbeaten Lions to their third lowest scoring output of the season.
"We had to keep them off the field, we didn't do that," Crews said of his offense that managed just nine first downs in the game. "Our defense played lights out. We put (the defense) in bad situations a few times in the second half and they rose up and stopped them."
-- Sports Editor Will Hammock and staff writers Ben Betizel, Brandon Brigman and David Friedlander contributed to this report