Dacula's Rocky Capobianco (5) runs out of the grasp of Central's Maurice Teele (91) for a long gain during Friday night's game at Dacula.
Dacula's Javin Webb (4) gets a little help from team mate Dustin Johnson (84) following the interception as Central's Ken Barry (60) and Braden Glover make the stop during Friday night's game at Dacula.
DACULA -- Dacula and Central Gwinnett were headed in opposite directions coming into their Region 8-AAAAA game Friday night at Barron Field.
The expanse between the two teams only grew after the Falcons' 49-21 rout of the Black Knights.
Marcus Cox had a huge game with 176 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, while Rocky Capobianco added 72 yards rushing on nine carries and two scores, and quarterback Brandon Goodson was a perfect 6-for-6 passing for 137 yards and two TDs as Dacula (3-2, 3-0) rolled up a 49-0 halftime lead and stayed in a tie with Grayson and Parkview atop the region standings.
"We came out and played our best," said Cox, who ran for 99 yards on six carries and caught two passes for 77 yards. "That's what coach wanted from us all week. We made a big step in the right direction (Friday night). We came out slow to start the season, but now we're picking it up and playing like we should be playing the whole season."
While the Falcons were on their way to a third straight win after an 0-2 start, Central (3-3, 1-3) fell for the third straight week after a 3-0 start.
About the only thing that went right for the Black Knights was winning the coin flip and getting the ball first.
Everything went downhill from there as a 4-yard loss on their first snap was followed by an errant shotgun snap on the second play from scrimmage.
Dacula's Dustin Johnson scooped up the loose ball in the end zone to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead just 35 seconds into the game.
"The first thing we've got to do is we have to quit shooting ourselves in the foot," said Central coach Todd Wofford, whose team committed three turnovers on the night. "Against a good team (like Dacula), you can't turn the ball over, No. 1. No. 2, you can't spot them (a lot of early points). You've just got to keep your composure and play."
But things only continued to go from bad to worse for the Black Knights as another bad shotgun snap was recovered by Alex Armah, giving Dacula the ball on the Central 40-yard line.
They got a brief reprieve when Zentavias Cobb was stripped of the ball on the 1 heading in for an apparent touchdown, and Josh Marshall recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.
But it was only a brief respite, as the Black Knights went three and out, and Dacula needed just three plays to find the end zone, with Capobianco sprinting in from 10 yards out to push the lead to 14-0 with 6:29 left in the first quarter.
Cox then got revved up, scoring on a 14-yard run and a 42-yard bomb from Goodson to push the Falcons' lead to 28-0 lead by the end of the opening frame.
Capobianco and Cox each added another score in the second quarter -- the former from 35 yards and the latter from 60 -- before Goodson hit Armah on a 29-yard scoring strike with 4:13 left in the half, and the Dacula lead ballooned to 49-0.
Central finally got its offense going, and had a chance to get on the scoreboard late in the half, driving 61 yards -- including four completions from Eman Westmoreland to Malachi Jones for 23 yards -- to set up first and goal at the Dacula 2.
But negative-yardage plays on first and second downs were followed by an incomplete pass.
And Jones was stopped on the 2 after receiving another pass from Westmoreland on fourth down, ending the drive on downs and the Falcons took their 49-0 lead into intermission.
Central continued to battle against Dacula's reserves in the second half, getting touchdown passes of 9 and 42 yards from Westmoreland to Jones in the third quarter and a 4-yard touchdown run by Johnathan Hawkins with 37 seconds remaining to account for the final score.
But the night was another big step forward for coach Jared Zito's Falcons.
"I couldn't be more proud of our effort in the first half," Zito said. "I challenged our guys to play like a championship team (Friday) night, and they did in all facets (of the game).
"Yeah, we've turned a corner, but we've still got to keep battling. We've got to climb that hill and get a little better (each week). But ever since the second half of the Mill Creek game (in Week 2), this has been a different football team."