DACULA – When the Dacula offense was putting points on the board on a cold and rainy night, it still came down to a pair of defensive stands as the Falcons pulled out a 36-31 win over West Forsyth in the opening round of the Class AAAAAA state football playoffs.
Dacula had broken a 24-24 tie a minute into the fourth quarter when running back Bijan Sirleaf scored his third touchdown of the night on a 2-yard run to make it 30-24 after the extra point was blocked.
But West Forsyth came right back down the field and drove to the Dacula 3.
After a delay-of-game penalty, the Wolverines faked a 25-yard field goal attempt.
But the Dacula defense was ready and the Falcons turned back the Wolverines with a two-yard loss to preserve the six-point lead.
Dacula (7-4) then went on a 13-play, 90-yard drive that burned nearly six minutes and was capped off by Aaron Grove’s 1-yard run to push the Falcons’ advantage to 36-24 after the two-point try failed with 2:38 left.
Grove had 71 yards on 12 carries for the Falcons.
But West Forsyth struck quickly as Trevor O’Brien scored on a 14-yard run to cut the Dacula lead to 36-31 just 36 seconds later.
O’Brien finished with 188 yards on 22 carries and two TD runs.
That set up an onside kick, which West Forsyth recovered and the Wolverines were suddenly in business at the Dacula 49.
West Forsyth got as deep as the Dacula 27, but a sack by Lawson Cook, two incompletions and a fourth-down pass breakup by C.J. Mayes with 1:08 to go in the game sealed the deal for the Falcons.
“We’ve preached to our kids to take it one play at a time,” said Dacula head coach Tommy Jones. “Our offensive line played really well and the running backs made some big plays. But our defense stepped up and made some plays down the stretch for us. And when it’s all said and done, you just want to be ahead on the scoreboard at the end and tonight we were.”
Dacula caught the first break of the game when West Forsyth fumbled the snap on the Wolverines’ first punt of the game after a three-and-out by the Falcons’ defense.
Justin Williams recovered the fumble for Dacula at the West Forsyth 2, which set up Sirleaf’s 2-yard run to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead just 1:05 into the contest.
Sirleaf finished with 137 yards on 14 carries and three TD runs.
But West Forsyth (7-4) answered back with a six-play, 61-yard drive that was highlighted by a 44-yard run by O’Brien.
Hunter McConnell’s pass to Grant Anderskow from eight yards out tied it at 7-7 with 10:23 to go in the second quarter.
On the scoring play, Anderskow was injured as he scored at the right pylon and the action was stopped for 20 minutes to allow medical personnel to attend to the West Forsyth junior.
The two teams then traded field goals as Mattiucci hit from 22 yards for Dacula and Timmy Hartshorn for West Forsyth on a 29-yarder with just 50 seconds left in the opening half to make 10-10.
But Dacula needed just two plays to retake the lead heading to the half, including Kelan Fraise’s 71-yard run to put the Falcons back in front 17-10.
Fraise finished the night with 105 yards on just six carries and a TD.
“Anytime you win a playoff game, it’s an exciting thing,” said Jones, whose Falcons host Peachtree Ridge in the second round next Friday. “I’m really proud of our kids for their resilience, their perseverance. It was a real back-and-forth game and let me tell you, that’s a great football team in West Forsyth and we’re just so excited to be able to advance.”
DACULA 36, WEST FORSYTH 31
West Forsyth 0 10 14 7 - 31
Dacula 7 10 7 12 - 36
Dacula: Bijan Sirleaf 2 run (Nick Mattiucci kick) 10:55
West Forsyth: Grant Anderskow 8 pass from Hampton McConnell (Timmy Hartshorn kick) 10:23
Dacula: Mattiucci 22 FG, 4:47
West Forsyth: Hartshorn 29 FG, :50
Dacula: Kelan Fraise 71 run (Mattiucci kick) :17
West Forsyth: McConnell 5 run (Hartshorn kick) 5:04
Dacula: Sirleaf 65 run (Mattiucci kick) 4:52
West Forsyth: O’Brien 1 run (Hartshorn kick) 1:46
Dacula: Sirleaf 2 run (kick failed) 10:55
Dacula: Aaron Grove 1 run (pass failed) 2:38
West Forsyth: O’Brien 14 run (Hartshorn kick) 2:02