South Gwinnett's Bernard Morrison
DACULA -- Coming into the season, South Gwinnett head coach John Small felt that his offense would be one of his team's strengths.
That hunch proved to be accurate on Friday night as his Comets opened their Region 8-AAAAAA schedule with a 42-21 win over Dacula.
"I'm proud of our guys," Small said. "This is a great group of guys and they gave a great effort tonight. We made a lot of mistakes in the first two games and we had to cut back on those. It was a total team effort."
That team effort was certainly needed as Dacula continued to hang tough. Marcus Cox, who led Dacula with 134 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, scored his second TD of the night on a 26-yard run late in the third to cut the South margin to 28-21.
But the South offense had an answer in Bernard Morrison. On the ensuing drive, Morrison took a handoff from quarterback Jordan Ramey and rolled to the right on the drive's fourth play. Instead of cutting the corner, Morrison pulled up and found a wide open Coray Keel down the right side for a 40-yard touchdown, putting South back up 34-21. Morrison also ran the ball four times for 29 yards, scoring twice on runs of 13 and nine yards in the first half.
"Bernard is a special player," Small said. "He can run it, catch it and throw it. He's a weapon you can put in a lot of places."
Dacula quarterback Brandon Goodson also put up good numbers, throwing for 152 yards on 7 of 15 attempts with one TD and one interception.
That interception proved to be huge as it stopped a Dacula drive deep in South's territory midway through the second quarter.
"Both guys are returning starters and we expect those kind of things out of them," Dacula head coach Jared Zito said of Cox and Goodson. "However, this is a team game and we need everyone to step up and be consistent all at the same time and we haven't done that yet."
After trading turnovers on each the two teams' first possessions, Dacula drew first blood when Cox scored on a 5-yard run to cap off a short 23-yard, four-play drive.
South answered with the next two scores on TD runs from Morrison. Both of those scoring drives were long ones as the first on went 73 yards on 11 plays, while the second covered 63 yards on 12 plays.
Dacula would battle back to tie the game at 14-14 when Goodson found Josh Bullock down the left side for a 26-yard TD pass with 2:50 left in the half, but South stormed back down the field when it got the ball back, covering 67 yards on five plays, ending when Ramey connected with Keel for a 6-yard TD pass. Ramey, who finished his night with 113 yards and one TD on 10 of 19 attempts, was particularly sharp in the opening drive of the second half when he led the Comets on a six play, 61-yard scoring drive, ending with a 15-yard TD run from Josh Boyd.
Ramey was 3-for-3 on the drive for 43 yards, while Boyd's TD run put the Comets up 28-14. Boyd led South in rushing with 105 yards and one TD on 19 carries, while Travon Davis added 53 yards on six rushes.
Dacula answered on the ensuing drive by going 90 yards on 10 plays, ending when Cox scrambled in from 26 yards out when Dacula went for it on fourth down.
However, the South defense finally slowed down Cox and Goodson from that point on, while the South offense did its part with two unanswered scores.
"We had a chance to put it away early but Dacula kept fighting back," Small said. "We ran the ball well tonight and threw it when we had to and finally came together in all three phases."