Class AAAAAA blog: Dacula defense facing test from Dalton’s Gibbs

Dalton running back Jahmyr Gibbs (1) runs the ball during Friday's game. (Daniel Varnado/Special)
Dalton running back Jahmyr Gibbs (1) runs the ball during Friday's game. (Daniel Varnado/Special)

Top-ranked Dacula enters the playoffs this week as the fifth-highest scoring team in Class AAAAAA, averaging 38.5 points per game during its 10-0 regular season.

The Falcons have gotten big contributions from a number of positions. Quarterback Jarrett Jenkins has passed for 1,789 yards and 14 touchdowns. Chris Scott with 644 yards and three touchdowns receiving. Trenton Jones has rushed for 924 yards and 11 scores. And Konata Mumpfield has 30 catches for 487 yards and eight TDs and returned 13 punts for an average of 20 yards.

But the Falcons have been perhaps even more impressive on defense, allowing just 12 points (fourth-best in AAAAAA) and 92.3 rushing yards per game.

It’s that defense that will get the biggest test when Dacula takes on Dalton in the first round Friday night.

Dalton is the No. 2 team in the classification in scoring, averaging 41.5 points per game, and brings to town the state’s leading rusher, Jahmyr Gibbs. The Georgia Tech-committed senior has run for a state-best 2,358 yards and 39 touchdowns on 208 carries, an average of 235.8 yards and 3.9 touchdowns per game and 11.3 yards per carry. Including his receiving and kick-return duties, Gibbs has amassed 2,668 all-purpose yards this season. The closest player to him on that list is receiver Hunter Noland with 490 yards.

Gibbs has run for at least 214 yards in six of the Catamounts’ 10 games. One of those came against second-ranked Harrison, when he ran for 220 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries in a 42-21 loss.

“The idea was to try to keep [Gibbs] off the field and try to keep scoring points so that they had to get out of their comfort zone,” Harrison coach Matt Dickmann said after that game.

Dacula has held six of its opponents to 10 points or less, and three of the four teams that scored more were Class AAAAAAA playoff teams Mill Creek, Mountain View and Central Gwinnett.

The winner will advance to play Tucker or Glynn Academy next week in the second round.

Here are some of the other stories to watch in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs:

*Best draw: Harrison

Harrison hasn’t advanced beyond the quarterfinals since its 2000 team lost to Parkview in the Class AAAAA championship game, but the second-ranked Hoyas are in prime position for a deep postseason run this year. No other teams in Harrison’s quarter of the bracket are the top 10 of the GHSF Daily/AJC rankings, and only one – Houston County (No. 8) – is in the top 15 of the computer Maxwell Ratings. Houston County is a No. 4 seed and would need to win twice on the road to earn a trip to Harrison. The earliest that the Hoyas could run into a ranked opponent would be the semifinals, where either No. 1 Dacula or No. 3 Lee County could be waiting.

*Biggest surprises: Morrow, North Atlanta, South Paulding, Sprayberry 

North Atlanta had not been to the playoffs since 1996 but clinched the No. 3 seed in Region 7 when it beat Chattahoochee last week. The Warriors are 7-3, their first season with a winning record since 2010. North Atlanta’s opponent this week is South Paulding, which had been 5-25 in the three seasons since its last playoff appearance in 2015. The Spartans were 2-8 last year but are 8-2 now. Morrow ended a long drought when it reached the playoffs for the first time since 1998, which also was the last time the Mustangs (6-4) finished with a winning record. Sprayberry is in for the first time since 2011 and will face eighth-ranked Lanier this week.

*Noticeable by their absence: Northside-Warner Robins 

Northside had made 27 consecutive appearances in the postseason before coming up short this year. Northside, which lost to Lee County in the 2018 championship game, was ranked No. 4 at the start of the year and still hung on to the No. 10 spot despite a 3-2 start but went 0-5 down the stretch, including 0-4 in region play to finish last in five-team Region 1. The Eagles didn’t just make it to the playoffs in their 27-year run, they usually stuck around for a while, going 22-5 in their first-round games during that stretch. Two other teams that reached the quarterfinals last year – Creekview and Sequoyah of Region 6 – failed to make it back to the playoffs.

*Best game that could come too early: Lee County vs. Dacula 

There are always those games on the bracket that you wish could come a little later in the playoffs because a top team will be going home early. That could be the case this year in the quarterfinals, where top-ranked Dacula would meet No. 3 Lee County. Dacula opens against Dalton and then would face the Tucker-Glynn Academy winner for a spot in the quarterfinals. Lee County, the two-time defending champion, opens against 2-8 Greenbrier and would face the Alpharetta-Creekview winner. Another high-profile matchup in the early going could come in the second round, where No. 4 Valdosta would take on No. 5 Johns Creek if both teams advance.

*First-round matchups: 

(R8 #3) Gainesville at (R6 #2) Allatoona

(R2 #4) Bradwell Institute at (R4 #1) Stephenson

(R1 #3) Coffee at (R3 #2) Heritage-Conyers

(R7 #4) Northview at (R5 #1) Mays

(R6 #3) Sprayberry at (R8 #2) Lanier

(R4 #4) M.L. King at (R2 #1) Richmond Hill

(R3 #3) Lakeside-Evans at (R1 #2) Valdosta

(R5 #4) Alexander at (R7 #1) Johns Creek

(R4 #3) Tucker at (R2 #2) Glynn Academy

(R6 #4) Dalton at (R8 #1) Dacula

(R5 #3) Creekside at (R7 #2) Alpharetta

(R3 #4) Greenbrier at (R1 #1) Lee County

(R2 #3) Brunswick at (R4 #2) Morrow

(R8 #4) Winder-Barrow at (R6 #1) Harrison

(R7 #3) North Atlanta at (R5 #2) South Paulding

(R1 #4) Houston County at (R3 #1) Evans