Dacula's Marcus Cox races past Brookwood's Zach Jackson (45) and Christopher Dancy (37) for a long gain during Friday night's game at Dacula.
DACULA -- Dacula's Jared Zito wasn't too happy with the way his defense played in the first two games of the season.
The first-year Falcons head coach couldn't stop raving about the unit on Friday.
Dacula's defense held defending state champion Brookwood to 125 yards of offense on its way to a 20-6 victory in the Region 8-AAAAA opener.
"We've been playing good first- and second-down defense. Our problem has been getting off the field on third down, so I challenged our team," Zito said. "They just kept believing and kept playing."
Dacula allowed 35 points in its first two games of the season and began the year 0-2. On Friday, the Falcons held Brookwood's Nick Tompkins, a Michigan State commitment, to 39 yards rushing.
"We played fast and we tackled and we just kept getting hats to the football," Zito said. "It was a team defensive effort. I can't say enough."
It's the third straight year Dacula (1-2, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAA) has defeated Brookwood (1-2, 0-1) and it gave Zito his first win as the Falcons' head coach.
Linebacker Morgan Loyd led Dacula's defense, which made three big red zone stops, with seven tackles and a tackle for loss. Roman Schnaak had seven stops and Brandyn Bartlett made five tackles and had an interception in the final minutes to seal Dacula's stout defensive performance.
"We had a bye week and that gave us a lot of time to prepare," Loyd said. "We just clicked. It's all about playing hard. We came out firing and ready to play."
Rocky Capobianco led the Falcons down the field on their first drive, picking up three first downs to put Dacula on the 4. Juanye Roberts finished the drive with a six-yard TD to put the Falcons ahead 7-0.
Capobianco was the game's leading rusher with 106 yards on 19 carries. Marcus Cox added 88 yards rushing, while quarterback Brandon Goodson was 8 of 14 for 89 yards while splitting duties with Capobianco.
"I thought tonight we had good balance between Marcus, Rocky and Brandon," Zito said. "I thought we just had good balance. We just had a rhythm going."
Brookwood scored on its next two possessions thanks to big plays on special teams. Tompkins had a 36-yard kickoff return to midfield and Zach Moon's 22-yard pass to Jamaal Cole put the Broncos in scoring position. The Broncos had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Brandon Morrow.
B.J. Sammon then had a 50-yard punt return to the Dacula 1, but the Broncos were stuffed by the Dacula defense. Brookwood had to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Morrow to trail 7-6 at the start of the second quarter.
"That was huge, especially the one down deep on the one-yard line," Zito said. "That was really a true hold."
Dacula's Cox had a 49-yard gain on a screen pass to the Brookwood three to set up the Falcons' second score. Alex Armah caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Goodson. Brookwood's Jah-Mai Davidson blocked the PAT and Dacula led 13-6 with 5:04 left in the half.
Brookwood had just three first downs the first half and the running game was non-existent with 23 yards rushing. It didn't get much better in the second half as the Broncos finished with just six first downs and 62 yards rushing.
"Our kids played fast and they played physical and that's Dacula football," Zito said.
Brookwood converted on fourth down to the Dacula 10, but had to settle for another field goal attempt. Morrow missed from 35 yards with 1:22 left in the third quarter and Brookwood never threatened to score again.
"We got our butts whipped," Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. "They played hard. We tried to get back in the game and move the ball and they would stop us. Then they would move the ball and we couldn't stop them."
Dacula put the game away in the final minutes when Cox scored on a 24-yard run up the middle to make it 20-6 with 2:23 left in the game.
Bartlett denied any kind of Brookwood comeback with his interception.
"It's so hard to convince people. You've got to bring your A game every week," Crews said. "There's a lot of good teams in this region. If you don't, you'll get beat. Evidently, we haven't learned that yet."