Dacula’s Kelan Fraise (2) scores a touchdown during the game game against Mill Creek earlier this season. (Photo: Craig Cappy)
Aside from their records, Grayson and Dacula share much in common as the two teams prepare for a Region 8-AAAAAA game Friday at Barron Stadium.
Both the Rams (1-2, 1-0) and Falcons (1-2, 1-0) got wins that were a much-needed boost not only in terms of getting off to a good start in region play, but also to each team’s psyche.
Grayson’s 34-10 win over Parkview not only avenged its only regular-season loss from a year ago, but also helped the Rams shake off the effects of an uncharacteristic 0-2 start, their first since 2006 and only their second in school history.
Meanwhile, Dacula’s 35-29 double overtime win over South Gwinnett not only gave Tommy Jones his first win since becoming head coach in the offseason, but infused a jolt of confidence in a team in need of one after last year’s 1-9 campaign.
“Winning makes everything a little better,” Jones said. “I was joking with the kids that it even makes the Cheerios taste better Saturday morning. Practice has been a little more focused and exciting this week, but each week, we have it’s a brand new opportunity. And in this region, there are no off weeks.”
That is definitely the case Friday with the Rams and Falcons looking a lot like mirror images of each other.
Each used its running game to its advantage in its victory last week, which has been a trademark for each program over the years.
For Rams coach Mickey Conn, it was just a matter of finding the right pieces to the puzzle to get his team back to playing Grayson-style football.
“We just committed to running the football (last week),” Conn said. “We made some (personnel) changes. First of all, our starting left tackle Austin Hamilton came back from an injury. We moved Chase King from tight end to guard. And Mohamed Barry and Daniel Fennell both played at wingback. They’d been playing only on defense, but we played them both ways because we felt like we needed bigger bodies to block on the wing. They were subtle changes, but they were big.
“Tommy’s doing a real good job (at Dacula), and they’re a hard-nosed football team and have a lot of speed. I think it’s going to be a real physical game. Both teams like the physical style. It all comes down to execution.”
While the addition of Barry, who scored two touchdowns against Parkview, and Fennell (one TD) complemented a big night from Rams running backs Aares McCall (17-177, TD) and Cameryn Brent (23-109, TD) last week, Dacula had its own share of individuals step up in its running game.
With Jacque Evangelister still out from an injury suffered in the season opener — his status for Friday is still uncertain — contributions from running backs C.J. Mayes (23 car., 162 yards) and Kevin Ficklin and quarterback Aaron Grove (14-88, 3 TDs) proved crucial to the Falcons’ clutch win.
It reminded Conn of Dacula teams of years past.
“They look a lot like (former) Coach (Kevin) Maloof’s old teams on tape,” Conn said. “They run a lot of things that’s … hard to (imitate) with our scout team, and it will be a lot faster (tonight). We’ll have to see how we can adjust to (Dacula’s) speed.”
Jones isn’t surprised about Conn’s assessment.
“You’ve got to remember, I spent my first few years coaching at Dacula,” Jones said. “A lot of how I do things to try to win come from the philosophy I developed while working under Coach Maloof. He got me to really believe in a big, physical football team and getting them to believe that when they play hard, the can overcome mistakes.”
GRAYSON AT DACULA
Grayson Rams (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Mickey Conn
Record: 1-2, 1-0 region
Last week: Beat Parkview 34-10
Dacula Falcons (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Tommy Jones
Record: 1-2, 1-0 region
Last week: Beat South Gwinnett 35-29 in 2 OTs
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Grayson won 45-7 last year
Directions to Dacula High School: From Highway 316, go north on Highway 8 approximately one mile and school is on the left.
2012 — Grayson 45, Dacula 7
2011 — Grayson 34, Dacula 14
2010 — Grayson 16, Dacula 10
2009 — Grayson 44, Dacula 0
2008 — Grayson 27, Dacula 7