The Archer sideline celebrates as Archer’s Chad Bird (9) makes an interception for a touchdown against Dacula during high school football action in Lawrenceville Friday. Archer defeated Dacula 31-14. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan) The Archer sideline celebrates as Archer’s Chad Bird (9) makes an interception for a touchdown against Dacula during high school football action in Lawrenceville Friday. Archer defeated Dacula 31-14. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
LAWRENCEVILLE — Chad Bird’s early fourth-quarter interception seemed to seal the game for Archer.
The Tigers led Dacula by a touchdown and the pick set the offense up at midfield.
“I wanted to give my team a chance to punch it in,” the senior said.
They didn’t do it.
Two plays later, the Tigers coughed up the ball and Dacula’s Lawson Cook gave his Falcons’ offense the ball at midfield with a chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter.
Back to work for Bird.
The first interception was his first as a varsity player and on the seventh play of the Dacula drive he came away with his second. This time he didn’t give his offense a chance.
Bird sprinted down the middle of the field 64 yards for his first varsity touchdown as Archer pulled away for a 31-14 win.
“That definitely gave us an advantage,” Bird said of his scoring interception. “I was just plowing through.”
The play turned a close game into a convincing win when Dacula fumbled the kickoff and Archer’s Michael Frye sealed the game with a 25-yard field goal.
“It’s huge,” Archer head coach Andy Dyer said of the win that makes his Tigers (5-0, 3-0 region) and Central Gwinnett the only two unbeaten teams in Region 8-AAAAAA play. “We still have a ton of football left. We all do. You can’t take anything for granted, ever.”
Archer opened the game with a dominating offensive drive.
The Tigers marched 80 yards in 10 plays, converting a third-and-9 and a third-and-8 along the way. Quarterback Gabe Tiller connected on all three of his passes for 45 yards, including a 14-yard connection to K.J. Parmer on third-and-9 from the 17 that set up Dylan Singleton’s 3-yard TD dive. It was the first of three Singleton touchdown runs all from less than three yards. The junior rushed for just 11 total yards on five carries. Tiller ended the game with 133 yards passing. Randy Nails led Archer and all rushers with 110 yards on 15 carries.
Dacula’s (2-3, 2-1 region) offense struggled through the first quarter, but after the opening drive the Falcons’ defense, led by Jacque Evangelister, clamped down on the Archer attack.
At the end of the first quarter, Archer nearly took a two-score lead when Tiller hit a wide open receiver in the end zone for a 35-yard completion on fourth down, but he had crossed the line of scrimmage before throwing. And the penalties didn’t stop for the Tigers.
Dacula took over on the 40 and, aided by a pass interference call on third down, tied the game with a 5-yard scoring run by Jakob Brashear.
“We struggle with consistency at times,” Dyer said of his team’s 78 yards in penalties.
Archer answered with a kickoff return into Dacula territory by John Gillis and seven plays later, Singleton again punched it in from 3 yards out with 2:14 left before half.
But Dacula didn’t just run the clock out. It first turned to Evangelister who carried the ball three times for 19 yards putting the Falcons on the Archer 45 with 40 seconds remaining. Evangelister led Dacula with 69 rushing yards.
Suddenly, the Falcons’ passing game awoke. With just two completions for 15 yards, Aaron Morris found Kelan Fraise down the right sideline fro a 32-yard gain and on the next play hit Josh Lovin for a 13-yard touchdown tying the game at 14-14.
“They came and struck back at us,” Dyer said. “That’s a credit to them.”
The second half was all Archer with the Tigers defense corralling the Falcons’ attack forcing two punts and three turnovers. They allowed just four Dacula first downs.
“We beat ourselves in the first half,” Bird said. “In the second half we got back to playing Archer defense.”
Archer 31, Dacula 14
Dacula 0 14 0 0 — 14
Archer 7 7 7 10 — 31
Archer: Dylan Singleton 3 run (Michael Frye kick) 7:35
Dacula: Jakob Brashear 5 run (Nick Mattiucci kick) 5:11
Archer: Singleton 3 run (Frye kick) 2:14
Dacula: Josh Lovin 13 pass from Aaron Grove (Mattiucci kick) 0:32
Archer: Singleton 2 run (Frye kick) 2:11
Archer: Chad Bird 64 interception return (Frye kick) 7:13
Archer: Frye 25 FG, 5:52
First downs 12 13
Rushes-yards 45-194 27-160
Passing yards 67 133
Comp-Att-Int 5-11-2 14-23-0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 3-30 10-78
RUSHING — Dacula: Jacque Evangelister 12-69; Grove 13-57; C.J. Mayes 12-28; Kevin Ficklin 3-26; Brashear 4-13; Lawson Cook 1-1. Archer: Randy Nails 15-110; Gabe Tiller 5-36; Singleton 5-11; Kyle Davis 1-3; K.J. Parmer 1-0.
PASSING — Dacula: Grove 5-11-2, 67. Archer: Tiller 14-23-0, 133
RECEIVING — Dacula: Kelan Fraise 1-32; Lovin 2-21; Chris Warner 2-14. Archer: Davis 4-53; Singleton 4-34; Parmer 3-28; Nails 3-18.