GWINNETT GRADS: Dacula's Cox has record-breaking game for Appalachian State

Dacula grad Marcus Cox (14) burst onto the scene in his first start for Appalchian State against Elon last Saturday. (Photo: Appalachian State Athletics/Keith Cline)

Dacula grad Marcus Cox (14) burst onto the scene in his first start for Appalchian State against Elon last Saturday. (Photo: Appalachian State Athletics/Keith Cline)

After an uncharacteristic 0-2 start, Appalachian State’s coaches had a bye week to prepare for last Saturday’s Southern Conference opener with Elon.

The solution they found — get the ball to Marcus Cox more.

The true freshman from Dacula had a record-setting day in a 31-21 victory over Elon, rolling up 308 total yards and three touchdowns in his first college start. He carried 26 times for 159 yards and a game-clinching TD with 1:27 left and had five catches for 149 yards and two more scores, 73- and 50-yard TD receptions in the first half.

“For my first start, I couldn’t have asked for more,” Cox said. “I was just trying to go in and play ball. To have such a great game, it was a great weekend. My birthday was (last) Friday, too, and then to have that big game was great.”

Cox earned SoCon Freshman of the Week and The Sports Network’s Division I FCS National Co-Freshman of the Week for the prolific effort, which established the following Appalachian State milestones:

• Most receiving yards by a running back in school history

• Most receiving yards by a true freshman in school history

• Most rushing yards by a true freshman since 2006

• Most rushing yards by a true freshman running back since 2003

The 31 touches represented a drastic boost for Cox, who entered his first fall camp as fourth-team at running back. He left camp as the No. 3 back, but has quickly worked his way into the starting role.

He had six touches for 47 yards in the season opener vs. Montana, then moved up to the No. 2 back role for the second game vs. North Carolina A&T. He had 35- and 9-yard TD catches in the game, in addition to rushing eight times for 36 yards.

But his 11 touches that week went up greatly after the Mountaineers’ bye week.

“Every week it seemed like I moved up (the depth chart),” Cox said. “I was just trying to work hard and move up every week. … I came in here in June and tried to work hard every day. When I got my shot, I wanted to make the most of it. But that’s still only one game. I still have to work hard and keep proving myself every week.”

Cox’s versatility in the passing game already has given the Appalachian State offense a major boost. He has 11 catches for 229 yards and four TDs through three games, in addition to 37 rushes for 211 yards and a score.

The Mountaineers, who host Charleston Southern today, hope last week’s victory boosts them going forward. Both season-opening losses were out of conference, so a SoCon championship is still in play.

A test against a major power is on tap later, too. ASU travels to Athens Nov. 9 for a matchup with Georgia.

“I’m excited, that’s a hometown game,” Cox said. “I’ll have a lot of family and friends coming. For the Georgia guys on the team, it’s like a homecoming game for us. And it’s versus a big-dog team, so we’re looking forward to showing everybody what we can do.”

Cox is one of six Gwinnett grads on the Mountaineers’ roster, including free safety starter Alex Gray, a freshman from Peachtree Ridge. Gray has 17 tackles this season.

Central Gwinnett’s Malachi Jones, a sophomore wide receiver, has two catches for 33 yards. The roster also features senior offensive lineman Ian Barnard (Wesleyan), junior quarterback Kalik Barnes (Parkview) and junior linebacker Brandon McGowan (North Gwinnett).


Wimberly breaks out

South Gwinnett grad Aaron Wimberly stepped up in Iowa State’s 38-21 win over Tulsa on Thursday night, becoming the first cyclone back to top the 100-yard mark since the 2012 season opener.

Wimberly, a junior, had 19 carries for 137 yards in his third game at ISU. He played the two previous seasons at Iowa Western Community College.

Quick hits

Collins Hill’s Jordan Parker had 28 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown in Middle Tennessee’s 42-35 overtime victory at Florida Atlantic last weekend. It was Parker’s seventh career 100-yard game. … Collins Hill grad Taylor Heinicke’s 70-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter helped Old Dominion to a wild, 59-58 win over The Citadel last Saturday. The quarterback completed 35 of 42 passes for 363 yards and three TDs, and also rushed for 52 yards and another score.

Berkmar grad Justyn Shackleford had seven catches for 106 yards and a touchdown for Tulane, but Gwinnett grads George Morris (Central Gwinnett) and Cameron Lynch (Brookwood) got a 52-17 win for Syracuse last Saturday. Morris had nine rushes for 35 yards and a 14-yard catch and Lynch had nine tackles (2.5 for losses) and a sack. Collins Hill’s Zach Davis made three stops for Tulane.

Petroni gets league honor

Elon punter and Buford grad David Petroni was selected Monday as the Southern Conference Freshman of the Week.

Petroni averaged 43.5 yards on six punts in Elon’s game last Saturday against Appalachian State. He put five of his six punts inside the ASU 20-yard line, forced two fair catches and had a long of 50 yards.

On the season, 13 of his 22 punts have been inside the opponent’s 20. His 43.5 season average also ranks 13th nationally.

Lombardo off to great start

Nick Lombardo’s senior season at Washington and Lee (Va.) is off to a great start.

The Peachtree Ridge grad rushed of 86 yards from his quarterback position in the season opener vs. Franklin and Marshall, then ran for 107 yards and a score in the second game vs. Centre College.

Lombardo, a three-year letter winner and now a team captain, earned All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference honors last year. He has rushed for 1,423 yards during his college career while throwing for 823 more for a run-heavy offense.


Dacey leads North Georgia

Collins Hill grad Jessica Dacey, a freshman, scored the game-winning goal last weekend as No. 15 North Georgia defeated Young Harris 3-2 in women’s soccer.

Duluth grad Shannon Coloumbe assisted Dacey’s game-winner, which came 2:22 into overtime.

North Georgia was down 2-0 before North’s Kelly Penston scored and then Brookwood’s Megan Morrow assisted the equalizer in 60th minute. The team’s starting lineup also include goalkeeper Mallory Sayre of South Gwinnett, as well as Mill Creek’s Megan Gil, Grayson’s Jessica Allen, Greater Atlanta Christian’s Mollie Arrendale and Collins Hill’s Mariah Dickey, which meant eight of the starting 11 came from Gwinnett (Dacey came off the bench).

The North Georgia roster also includes Mill Creek’s Rachel Allred, Duluth’s Julianna Luther, Duluth’s Laura Diaz, Peachtree Ridge’s Olivia Hall and Parkview’s Alex Bowen.


Wehr gets conference award

Regis College (Mass.) sophomore Abbie Wehr, a Collins Hill grad, was named the New England Collegiate Conference’s player of the week on Monday.

Wehr went 2-0 at both No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles the previous week in matches vs. Salem State and Lesley. She is 3-1 this season in singles and 2-0 in NECC matches.

Wehr was the NECC co-player of the year last season, when she went 13-7 overall and 8-2 in the conference at No. 1 singles. She also was 10-0 at No. 1 doubles in conference play as a freshman.


Shead stands out at LaGrange

LaGrange College sophomore Avery Shead, a Dacula grad, is off to a great start this season.

Shead leads the USA South Athletic Conference with 21 service aces and is third on the team with 45 assists.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.