With two of Class AAAAAA’s teams facing off on Friday and seemingly even on paper, it was a question of which team would prevail. The Harrison Hoyas answered in resounding fashion, smothering the top-ranked, undefeated Dacula Falcons 38-7 for a road win that punched their ticked to the championship game.
The No. 2-ranked Hoyas (14-0), are a win away from the first state title in a program history that dates back to 1992. As a No. 1 seed from Region 6, they’ll face their league rival, No. 7 Allatoona — a No. 2 seed — in a rematch from Oct. 11 that the Hoyas won 21-17.
The AAAAAA title game is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday at Georgia State Stadium.
“(Allatoona) is going to be better (than the first matchup) and they’re going to want it just as bad as we do,” said Harrison’s Cody Gast, a senior defensive lineman who had a fumble recovery and two sacks. “Everything is on the line. We’re not going to overlook them. They’re our rival and the best team we’ve played all season.”
Though Harrison came in averaging 40.85 points and allowing just 11, and Dacula was outscoring opponents by an average of 40.92-13.77, it was the Hoyas who were in control from start to finish. They piled on touchdowns in the run game and limited AAAAAA’s highest-scoring offense to a season-low output.
Harrison built a 14-0 lead, scoring on its first and third possessions on 1-yard runs from running back David Roberts and quarterback Gavin Hall, while Dacula’s first three possessions ended in a punt, an interception and a fumble.
The Falcons (13-1), the top seed from Region 8, responded on their fourth possession with a 7-yard run from Kaleb Edwards, which made it 14-7 with 7:10 left in the half.
The Hoyas would later take over on their own 9 with 1:16 left and use seven plays to move 72 yards, setting up a 36-yard field goal attempt by Christian Lowery. He drilled it with 0:02 left to give Harrison a 17-7 lead it took into halftime.
To start the second half, the Hoyas used eight plays to move 80 yards, with senior running back Mason Baybay scoring the first of his three touchdowns to make it 24-7.
From there, it was all Harrison. Each team would get just three possessions in the second half, with the Falcons punting on their first one. Baybay answered again with a 19-yard touchdown run to cap a six-minute drive that bled into the fourth quarter.
The Hoyas sealed the game on Dacula’s next possession when senior safety Tommy Pollack hauled in an interception in the end zone with 9:07 left, ending a Dacula 11-play, 52-yard drive. They weren’t done, however. They used 11 run plays go 80 yards and chew another six minutes of clock, with Baybay running in the game’s final score with 3:08 remaining.
Hoyas coach Matt Dickman said the strategy on offense was simple.
“Basically the defense they play was to run what we run,” said Dickman, in his seventh season with the program. “They run a 5-2 and the game plan was to attack the 5-2.”
Now, the Hoyas will play for a championship for just the second time in school history. They reached the AAAAA title game in 2000 and lost to Parkview. This time around, Harrison has dominated all of its opponents with double-digit wins except for one: the Allatoona team they’ll meet again next week.
In the playoffs, they’ve outscored Winder-Barrow, Brunswick, Houston County and Dacula a combined 162-58.
They were led on Friday by Roberts (104 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries), Jay Ziglor (91 yards on 13 carries) and Baybay (85 yards, three scores on 10 carries).
Baybay said the team isn’t satisfied.
“We’re not done yet and we haven’t earned anything,” he said. “We want to be 15-0.”
The Falcons, who set a program-record for wins — they began playing in 1964 — were led by Edwards’ 110 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Harrison 7 10 7 14 — 38
Dacula 0 7 0 0 — 7
H — David Roberts 1 run (Christian Lowery kick)
H — Gavin Hall 1 run (Lowery kick)
D — Kaleb Edwards (Zach Gerks)
H — Lowery 36 FG
H — Mason Baybay 3 run (Lowery kick)
H — Baybay 19 run (Lowery kick)
H — Baybay 15 run (Lowery kick)
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