File Photo Central Gwinnett wide receiver Louis McGee runs the ball during a game earlier this season.
Three weeks ago Central Gwinnett head coach Todd Wofford thought his defense had emerged as a playoff-caliber unit.
The defense was the team's Achilles heel last year as it learned a new scheme and started several fresh faces. Wofford felt it was past the learning curve this fall.
Then the disaster in the Dome occurred. The Black Knights surrendered the most points in school history in en epic 63-55 loss to rival South.
It didn't get much better when defending state champion Brookwood hung 56 points on the Black Knights last week.
"It's two different deals. With the Dome, a lot of things happened based on alignment, a bunch of missed tackles and critical plays," Wofford said. "This past week, we played like we practiced. I don't know if it was the hangover left over from the Dome or what."
Central (3-2, 1-2 region) goes on the road Friday to Dacula (2-2, 2-0) to face a Falcons squad that is tied for first in the Region 8-AAAAA standings. The Black Knights have not made the playoffs since 2006 and a third-straight region loss would make it awfully tough to get in this season.
"We're not looking at the region as a whole," Wofford said. "This is a game to gauge if we've turned the page. The biggest thing is us and executing."
Dacula coach Jared Zito can feel Wofford's pain with the defense. The Falcons began the year by allowing 35 points in both losses to Norcross and Mill Creek.
Dacula held Brookwood to just six points in the region opener and posted a shutout against Berkmar last Friday.
"Their first few games they were trying to learn a new system. Even with that many seniors, they were still learning a new system," Wofford said. "It takes some time. I guarantee if they play those two games again it might be a different outcome."
Dacula doesn't have the glitz and glamour compared to Central's offense, but the Falcons do have a nice trio of playmakers. Rocky Capobianco is one of the county's leading rushers as a running back/quarterback. Running back Marcus Cox has big-play ability and Brandon Goodson has settled nicely into the starting QB role. Cox and Goodson played their best games of the season last week in the win against Berkmar. Offensive guard Ryan Malizia has been a terror on the line with four pancake blocks a game.
"They come right at you. They mix it up with their quarterbacks," Wofford said. "Rocky, he's a tough high school player and runs hard. They are much different than last year."
Central features some of the county's top statistical players. Quarterback Eman Westmoreland has thrown for 1.390 yards and 14 this season. Malachi Jones, who is questionable with a hand injury, leads the county in receptions with 32 and has eight TDs. Running back George Morris has rushed for 558 yards and eight TDs.
"They are a good offensive team. They have good players and they are well coached," Zito said. "They are an opponent you have to respect what they do. You can't be frustrated if you give up some plays."
Central also has some pretty good players on defense, which makes the recent collapse scratch your head. Linebacker Trey Johnson is one of the county's leading tacklers and has committed to Auburn. Francis Kallon, a Georgia Tech commitment, has been a playmaker at defensive end.
"They've got some kids on defense. They may give a lot of points and a lot of yards, but they've got some good looking players," Zito said. "They are scary. We better have our A game ready, I know that."