South, Central still talking about wild game at the Dome

South Gwinnett wide receiver Tyrone Atchison (11) celebrates a first half touchdown with teammate Isadore Davis (23) against Central Gwinnett in a Great American Classic football game played at the Georgia Dome on Saturday.

South Gwinnett wide receiver Tyrone Atchison (11) celebrates a first half touchdown with teammate Isadore Davis (23) against Central Gwinnett in a Great American Classic football game played at the Georgia Dome on Saturday.

The South Gwinnett-Central Gwinnett football rivalry is the county's oldest, dating back more than 50 years.

But it's doubtful any single game in the storied series can top the Comets' 63-55 win over the Black Knights in Saturday night's finale of the Great American Football Classic at the Georgia Dome.

"It was a crazy game," South coach John Small said Sunday evening after having a day to digest the shootout. "I don't know if there will be another one like it."

The game has created a buzz not only among the participants, but high school football fans statewide, and for good reason.

A look at the numbers alone are enough to send tongues wagging.


The two teams combined to produce 1,336 yards of total offense -- 643 by the victorious Comets and 693 in a losing effort by the Black Knights, both of which were school records

The two teams combined for 118 points, with South's 63 setting a new school record. The old record was 62 set during the Comets' victory over Central just a year ago

South quarterback Mason Hart amassed 395 yards of total offense -- a South school record -- by completing 17 of 30 passes for 283 yards and running for 112 more yards and eight carries. He produced two touchdowns on the ground and three more through the air

Three individual single-game Gwinnett County records were set by Central, with quarterback Emmanuel Westmoreland accounting for two of them by completing 32 passes for 569 yards out of his 47 attempts, with six completions going for TDs. The 569 yards also were the second most ever thrown for in a single game by a quarterback in the state of Georgia, trailing only the 596 yards put up by Justin Walker of Lee County just a year ago. Westmoreland also become just the sixth quarterback in Georgia history to throw for 500 or more yards in a game, joining Walker, Lassiter's Hutson Mason (who did it twice), Jonquel Dawson of M.L. King, Ron Hinson of Lamar County and Drew Little of Henry County

Black Knights receiver Malachi Jones also had a huge night. His 276 receiving yards also set a new county record and came on 11 receptions, which tie him with Duluth's duo of Bryan Shields and Andre Williams for third most in county history. In addition, Jones caught four of Westmoreland's touchdown passes, including a 94-yarder, which tie them with Norcross' Matt Wyrick and Juan Daniels for third-longest TD completion in Gwinnett history

Hart, Westmoreland and Jones were hardly alone in putting up huge numbers on the evening.

Tyrone Atchison had six receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown for South, while teammate Bernard Morrison added five catches for 95 yards and a score.

Central also got 124 yards and two TDs the ground from George Morris, while Louis McGee had seven receptions for 133 yards and a TD and Daniel Louis added five catches for 106 yards and a score.

Despite the records and prolific numbers, Central still came up short on the scoreboard, a fact that amazes Black Knights coach Todd Wofford.

"I told the team afterwards that I've never seen a game like that before," Wofford said. "To me, we had a lot of mental mistakes on several different plays."

Both teams made their share of mistakes -- eight combined turnovers and 35 combined penalties for a grand total of 285 yards, to be exact.

Those mistakes, along with the rapid-fire scoring and back-and-forth flow of the game only added to the game's excitement.

And while one of those mistakes -- Nick Hylton's block of the point after Central's final touchdown with 4:43 to play -- turned out to be the ultimate difference in the game, Wofford pointed to two others earlier in the fourth quarter as being just as critical.

One was a pass interference penalty when South was facing third and 30 from its own 29-yard line early in the final frame.

The other was a roughing the kicker penalty after the Black Knights had forced the Comets to punt on the following possession.

Both infractions kept South drives alive that eventually turned into points that allowed South to tie the game, and thus denying Central a chance to take a two-score advantage.

"That roughing the punter penalty changed everything," Wofford said. "And that pass interference (call) on third and 30 also hurt.

"We made critical mistakes at the wrong times, and you can't do that and expect to win. But we're still learning. The team has come a long way."

Small knows exactly how Wofford and the Black Knights feel. He and the Comets were on the wrong end of a similarly wild game during the 2009 Class AAAAA state playoffs, when they rolled up 500 yards of total offense, but were outscored by Lassiter and current Georgia back-up quarterback Hutson Mason by a 70-49 score.

Still, it was another recent game in the South-Central series that Saturday's game reminded Small the most of.

"We had one with Central back in 2007 that ended almost the same way," Small said. "(Saturday's game) was a heck of a ball game, and Central's kids played their guts out just like ours did."

The 2007 game Small referred to came after South and Central combined for 896 yards before Ian Graves managed to trip up eventual county rushing champion Diante Drake just 25 yards short of a potential game-tying TD in a 36-29 Comets victory.

Trailing by a point with time winding down and not time outs left, the Black Knights allowed South to score with 1:16 to play to get the ball back, and Westmoreland brought them within range of another touchdown that could've sent the game into overtime with a successful two-point conversion.

But with Central at the South 14, Weston Simmons sacked Westmoreland and kept him in bounds, allowing the clock to run out before the Black Knights could line up and snap the ball again and preserve the win for the Comets.