Archer’s K.J. Parmer (14) reacts to the 34-32 loss to North Gwinnett with teammate Dylan Singleton (3) during the second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs Friday in Lawrenceville. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
LAWRENCEVILLE — Building a football program from scratch is a laborious process with progress often measured in baby steps. But for Archer head coach Andy Dyer, his Tigers took a giant leap forward this season.
In only their fourth season of varsity competition, the Tigers rolled through the regular season schedule undefeated to claim their first championship in Region 8-AAAAAA. Last week they trounced North Forsyth 34-7 to claim the first playoff win in school history to set up Friday night’s game against visiting North Gwinnett.
It was an instant classic, a titanic battle of an established power and a young upstart serving notice they have arrived. Archer (11-1) built a 20-7 first-half lead, but North Gwinnett (11-1) rallied to stun the Tigers 34-32 on 27-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining to end the Tigers dream season in excruciating fashion.
“We’ve got the best kids in the state of Georgia,” Dyer said. “They fought their butts off and they deserved to win this football game tonight.”
After opening the season with a 37-0 shutout over Mountain View, the Tigers seemed to arrive as a program in week two against a tough East Coweta team. Trailing by three late in the game, a botched snap on a field goal attempt led to a scramble and touchdown pass by K.J. Parmer to win the game.
“That put them over the top, mentally,” Dyer said.
A 25-20 victory the following week against Brookwood infused the Tigers with even greater confidence. Behind the play of quarterback Gabe Tiller, running back Randy Nails, and dynamic receivers Parmer and Kyle Davis, the Tigers began to roll, averaging 37.5 a game the rest of the regular season.
The Tigers coupled their explosive offense with a stingy defense, holding four opponents to seven points or less and posting one shutout.
“Every kid in this program, I’m as proud of them as if they were my own sons,” Dyer said. “They’re class acts and they handle themselves with class.”
Despite the bitter finish, after tasting success and with a strong class of underclassmen returning, Archer served notice this season they have arrived as a legitimate power in Class AAAAAA. North Gwinnett would certainly attest.