The Winder-Barrow High School football team was not intimidated by the No. 1 team in the state on Friday, Nov. 8.
The Bulldoggs were even with the visiting Dacula High School Falcons into the second quarter before the state’s top team in Class AAAAAA began to take control on its way to a 61-31 victory at W. Clair Harris Stadium.
WBHS (3-6 overall, 2-3 GHSA Region 8-AAAAAA) had already secured a state playoff spot but was eager to test itself against a team which has been unstoppable during the regular season. Bulldogg coach Ed Dudley was proud of how his team battled in the contest.
“We came into the game and wanted to see what we could do against the best,” Dudley said. “We hung in there with them early. We didn’t play all that well defensively. We will try to clean that up next week. In the end I am still proud of this team and what they have accomplished in getting back to the playoffs.”
With the game tied at 14 in the second quarter the Falcons seemed to move into a faster gear and reeled off 28 unanswered points to close out the first half.
Dacula forced a three-and-out to start the second half and then closed the door with a 3-yard touchdown run by Trenton Jones with less than two minutes off the third quarter clock.
Jhaydon Sullivan passed for three touchdowns in the game, including two to Brett Landis (52 yards and 71 yards) and another to Stewart Allen (20 yards).
Dudley noted after the game how Sullivan and Landis have developed into a strong one-two punch.
WBHS won the opening coin toss but elected to go on defense first. The Bulldoggs never got the chance as Dacula’s Michael Howard returned the game’s opening kickoff 98 yards for a score.
The Bulldoggs responded with a nice opening drive of their own. Beginning at the WBHS 24-yard line, the Bulldoggs moved into Falcon territory, facing a fourth-and-1 at the 41.
Sullivan easily converted the first down on a quarterback keeper around the right end but WBHS was penalized for holding on the play and was forced to punt. It was the first of numerous calls against the Bulldoggs.
After the teams traded punts, Dudley’s team got on the board on a 52-yard pass from Sullivan to Landis. Harlin’s Brown point-after kick evened the score at 7-7 with 4:13 left in the first quarter.
Dacula, which capped a perfect 10-0 regular season, quickly regained the lead on an 83-yard drive in six plays capped by a 3-yard run by Jones with 2:05 still remaining in the opening quarter.
WBHS would not go away, however, and responded with a 76-yard drive with Sullivan finding Stewart Allen on a 20-yard pass, Brown’s kick once again evened the score.
A 10-yard run by the Falcons’ Kaleb Edwards gave the lead back to the region champions with 9:11 still left before halftime.
An 11-play drive by the Bulldoggs ended on a 46-yard field goal attempt by Brown, which banged off the left crossbar with 7:00 left in the first half.
Dacula looked to gain some breathing space but looked stopped on its next possession until the Falcons were bailed out on a personal foul penalty on WBHS. That penalty gave Dacula new life and seemed to be a turning point in the contest. The Falcons took full advantage of the situation, eventually reaching the end zone on a 26-yard by Edwards.
A 41-yard run Edwards and a 4-yard run by Kyle Efford gave Dacula a comfortable 42-14 halftime advantage.
The Bulldoggs will be on the road Friday, Nov. 15, for the opening round of the state playoffs at Harrison High School.
“It’s great to be in the playoffs,” Dudley said. “That was certainly one of our goals going into the season. We will work hard to put ourselves in a position to be successful on the road.”
D 14 28 19 0 — 61
W 7 7 17 0 — 31
D—Michael Howard 98 kickoff return (Zach Gerts kick)
W—Brett Landis 52 pass from Jhaydon Sullivan (Harlin Brown kick)
D—Trenton Jones 3 run (Gerts kick)
W—Stewart Allen 20 pass from Sullivan (Brown kick)
D—Kaleb Edwards 2 run (Gerts kick)
D—Edwards 26 run (Gerts kick)
D—Edwards 41 run (Gerts kick)
D—Kyle Efford 4 run (Gerts kick)
D—Jones 3 run (kick failed)
W—Landis 71 pass from Sullivan
D—Jones 22 run (Gerts kick)
W—Brown 34 FG
D—Efford 60 run (conversion failed)
W—Jamarious Smith 37 run (Brown kick)