Photo: Craig Cappy Archer's Ernest Alexander (8) scores a touchdown as Central Gwinnett's Darien Maheaux (54) can't stop the runner during Friday's game.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Offense sells tickets. At least that's how the old saying goes.
If the Battle of Lawrenceville was any indication, Archer and Central Gwinnett should sell a lot of tickets in the next few weeks as the teams battled in an offensive shootout with Archer picking up the home win, 48-41.
"This was a game where both teams battled," said Archer head coach Andy Dyer. "You have to give credit to Coach (Todd) Wofford and his kids. They never gave up."
The game saw a little bit of everything on both sides of the ball with the headliner being Archer's Ernest Alexander and his 200 rushing yards to go along with a school-record five touchdowns.
"All the credit goes to the offensive line," Alexander said. "They got me into the end zone."
The Knights (3-5, 1-5 region) also had their share of highlights on offense with George Morris rushing for 193 yards, while quarterback Eman Westmoreland completed 31 of 47 passes for 335 yards and five touchdowns.
Central, running its no-huddle offense, sliced down the field on its first drive, going 80 yards in 10 plays. On the final play of the drive, Westmoreland threw to Louis McGee for 21 yards and the score. On the drive, Westmoreland completed all five of his passes for 70 yards. The two-point conversion failed to leave the score at 6-0.
Not to be outdone, Archer (4-3, 3-2) took advantage of a 65-yard rush by quarterback Jarvis Holley (who finished with 106 yards), with Alexander hitting paydirt on the next play from the 10-yard line. Zach Wachholz's kick gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead with 4:55 to go in the first quarter.
After forcing the Knights to a fourth-down punt, Archer's special teams came up big as Jermaine Morris blocked Westmoreland's punt with Antonio Riles catching the ball and returning it to the 1-yard line.
However, a block in the back moved the ball back to the 11 and the Tigers were unable to capitalize, settling for a Wachholz 25-yard field goal to give them a 10-6 lead.
Archer looked to be in business again as Devin Hale intercepted Westmoreland, returning it 56 yards to the 11-yard line. But, the Central defense stood strong again, relegating the Tigers to another field goal, this time with Wachholz connecting from 20-yards out for a 13-6 lead.
The lead wouldn't last long as George Morris rushed for his county-leading 15th touchdown of the season, going 80 yards on the first play of the drive. Charlie DeLoatche's kick tied the game with 7:42 to go before halftime.
Central then took the lead on its next drive when Westmoreland his Malachi Jones on a slant from five-yards out, with the extra point putting the Knights up 20-13.
After being forced to punt on its next drive, Archer's special teams took advantage of an errant bounce off a Central player, recovering the ball on the 18-yard line. But, a sack on first down hurt their scoring chances as the fourth-down 47-yard field goal attempt went wide right with nine seconds left before halftime.
"Every game in this region is a battle," Dyer said. "You have to come ready to play every Friday night. There is no off week."
In the second half, Archer came storming out, scoring 21 straight points to open the half. Alexander took the first play of the half 30 yards for the touchdown, after being set up by Darius Williams with a long kickoff return. The extra point tied the game at 20 with 19 seconds gone in the quarter.
On Central's first play of the second half, the ball was fumbled and Archer recovered. This time, the Tigers wouldn't be denied of the end zone as Holley took it in from the 10-yard line to give Archer the lead.
A punt by Central on its next drive gave Archer another scoring opportunity as Alexander took it in from 31 yards out for his third score of the night. The extra point put Archer up 34-20.
Then, the fun really started.
Central came back to score a touchdown of its own using a 34-yard completion to Jones, and then a 15-yard touchdown pass to Adam Riley to bring the Knights to back within a touchdown.
However, Alexander stretched the lead back out to 14 when he found a seam and took the ball 47 yards to the end zone. Later, Alexander scored his final touchdown of the night with 8:58 to go in the game, this time from the 31-yard line to put Archer up by three scores.
"Ernest is such a great kid," Dyer said. "He'll tell you he doesn't want credit for the five touchdowns. He'll want to give all the credit to his teammates. That's just how he is."
The Knights converted a fourth down on their way to a score six plays later as Westmoreland found a diving Riley in the end zone for another touchdown. The ensuing onsides kick was recovered by Central, putting it back in business.
Central continued to move the ball down the field, taking six plays to go 59 yards with McGee catching his second touchdown on the evening, this time from 19 yards out.
However, it would end there for the Knights even though they would get the ball back twice before the end of the game and only being down seven. But, Deondre Singleton's county-leading seventh interception of the year and an interception by Zach Wright on the last play of the game, ended the Knights' hopes for a win.
"All the credit goes to the kids for this win," Dyer said. "They worked their tails off."
Jones finished the game with 15 more receptions for 150 yards, while McGee had six catches for 76 yards.