©Dale Zanine 2021_09_24 00242.JPG

Dacula’s Jayden Bethea (11) recovers a Lanier fumble and runs for a touchdown during Friday night’s game at Dacula High School.

DACULA — It was a tale of redemption for Dacula on Friday.

Playing host to Lanier in the Region 8-AAAAAA opener for both football teams, the Falcons came in looking to put an end to a three-game skid. They did so emphatically, exploding for 26 points in the opening quarter en route to a 54-20 victory over the Longhorns.

Dacula (2-3) improved to 6-0 all-time against Lanier (1-3).

“The kids got off to a big start,” first-year Dacula head coach Casey Vogt said. “We were kind of fired up, being that last week we didn’t play well against Mountain View. We felt like we needed to redeem ourselves, and I felt like the kids did that.”

Vogt was in search of an offensive renaissance after the Falcons were stifled in the second half of last week’s crushing loss to the Bears. Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait long to see his offense clicking once again.

On Dacula’s opening drive, it took just three plays for the team to advance 76 yards and punch it into the end zone. Senior Georgia Tech commit Kyle Efford bookended the possession with runs of 36 and 30 yards, respectively, the second of which resulted in the game’s first points.

Lanier’s first possession ended with a muffed punt, allowing the Falcons to pounce on the loose ball and take over on the Longhorn 21-yard line. Four plays later, Efford took a direct snap, worked around the left edge of the field and angled toward the pylon before stretching out for a 14-yard touchdown.

Dacula’s lead stood at 14-0 with 5:09 left to play in the first quarter.

The Falcons continued to find success in the ground game, capping their third drive of the night with a 3-yard rushing score from junior fullback Jonathan Williams.

With its offense and special teams already working in its favor, the only thing missing from Dacula’s proverbial bingo card in the first quarter was a key defensive stop. Just one play after Williams powered his way to a score, junior linebacker Jayden Bethea scooped up a fumble on the Longhorn 35 and ran it in to make it 26-0 with 3:12 to go.

Lanier finally got on the board inside the final minute of the opening quarter. Facing a fourth-and-19, senior quarterback Carson Thomas rolled out to his right and delivered a dart to senior Reese Scott for a 26-yard touchdown. It was the first of three scores Scott would produce for the Longhorns on Friday.

The Falcons responded with another pair of short rushing scores from Williams, inflating their advantage to 40-6 midway through the second quarter. Dacula senior Moussa Barry then effectively put the game away with a 99-yard interception return for a score, which made it 47-6 at the 4:14 mark.

Dacula’s final touchdown of the night came courtesy of a dime from senior quarterback Austin Adcock to fellow senior Dre Wilson, who hauled in the catch in the back-left corner of the end zone with 53 seconds remaining in the first half.

Trailing 54-6 at the break, the Longhorns showed their willingness to fight in the third quarter. They opened the half with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Scott. Later in the period, Scott recovered a fumble at midfield and ran it in for the final touchdown of the game.

“In the second half we got some turnovers, finally got some first downs, got (Dacula) to punt. There’s some things to build on,” Lanier head coach David Willingham said. “The most important thing is we don’t let this game beat us down the road. It’ll make us a better team. That’s all we can hope for.”

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