DACULA — Dacula definitely had the look of the No. 1 state-ranked team it is during its first-round Class AAAAAA state playoff game against Dalton.
And that was without not one, but two individuals named Jenkins — head coach Clint, who was serving a one-game suspension after being ejected from last week’s regular season finale, and quarterback Jarrett, who missed a little more than a half with an ankle injury.
But the Falcons got more than enough firepower from Kaleb Edwards, who piled up 281 yards of total offense, and a strong defensive effort to smother state rushing leader Jahmyr Gibbs and the Catamounts 49-18 Friday night at Barron Field.
Sure, the Georgia Tech commit got his yards — 171 of them on 23 carries, including a touchdown to be exact, though 112 of those yards came on just four runs, two of which (for 69 yards) came against Dacula’s second team.
“I think our defensive staff did a tremendous job,” said offensive coordinator Ken Burnette, who was running the team Friday in Clint Jenkins’ absence. “When we had our (first-team) in there, we limited the chunk runs, and that was the big thing. We wanted to limit his big runs.”
And the Dacula running game was more than a match, led by 193 yards and two TDs from Edwards, plus 106 yards on 12 carries from Trenton Jones, plus two touchdowns from Kyle Efford, to send the Falcons (11-0) into next week’s second round, where they will host Glynn Academy.
It didn’t take long — just three snaps — for Dacula to seize momentum when Edwards made an impact on the defensive side by snagging a deflected pass for an interception that gave the Falcons possession at the Dalton 47-yard line.
The 6-foot, 185-pound junior then got Dacula into the red zone with a 31-yard catch and run from Jenkins on the first offensive snap.
Five plays later, Efford barreled in from 2 yards out, and the Falcons had a 7-0 lead just 4:19 after the opening kickoff.
One snap after the ensuing kickoff, Dacula’s secondary came up big again when Reggie Icilien picked off Dalton (7-4) quarterback Landon Allen again and returning to the Catamounts 5-yard line.
After an encroachment penalty, Efford powered in from 3 yards out on the next play, and with just 12 plays and 4:47 elapsed, Dacula had a 14-0 led at the 7:13 mark of the first quarter.
More importantly, they had pretty much taken Gibbs, who entered the game leading all state rushers with 2,358 yards, into a more secondary role.
The senior running back did run for 36 yards on six carries during Dalton’s next 11-play, 53-yard drive, which was aided by two key penalties for 20 yards.
But the Falcons stuffed him for a 1-yard loss on third and goal from the Dacula 10, which forced the Catamounts to settle for a 27-yard J.J Robledo field goal that cut the lead to 14-3 with 1:47 left in the first quarter.
And Gibbs only touched the ball five more times the rest of the half.
“We knew (Dalton) had a good running back,” Edwards said. “But when they came out and started throwing it, we were kind of surprised and shocked. But we stayed poised, … and we were fine.”
Indeed, Edwards and the Dacula offense showed plenty of poise, with the senior snagging a pair of TD passes from Jarrett Jenkins — one when he took a quick pass in the right flat and tightroped the sidelines for a 44-yard catch and run with 11:49 left in the first half, and the other on a 14-yard scoring strike at the 5:38 mark to send the Falcons into halftime with a 28-3 lead.
And he showed a different dimension after Jenkins, who finished the game 7 of 9 for 140 yards and the two scores, went down with a twisted ankle, not believed to be serious with just under two minutes to go in the half.
Edwards took over at quarterback, and nearly led Dacula to a score by running for 63 yards on three carries over the final 29 seconds of the half, but ran out of time.
“When Jarrett goes down, … my job is to manage. That’s what a quarterback’s job is,” Edwards said. “I played quarterback all through GFL and through ninth grade. So it’s not new to me. I just manage.”
But time was no object after he and the Falcons took the second-half kickoff and zoomed 53 yards in four plays to extend the lead to 35-3 with 10:10 left in the third quarter.
It took Edwards and Dacula just two plays on the next drive to score, with the former breaking free for an 88-yard score to push the lead to 49-3 with 6:57 left in the quarter.
Voshon Porte then recorded the Falcons’ third interception of the night on Dalton’s next snap, and he turned it into a 35-yard pick six to balloon the lead to 49-3 with 5:35 left in the quarter, and the Falcons were able to render Gibbs’ 39-yard scoring run in the third quarter and Allen’s 23-yard TD pass to Karim Page and Gibbs’ two-point conversion run in the fourth moot.
DACULA 49, DALTON 18
Dacula: Kyle Efford 2 run (Zach Gerks kick), 7:41
Dacua: Efford 3 run (Gerks kick), 7:13
Dalton: J.J. Robledo 27 FG, 1:47
Dacua: Kaleb Edwards 44 pass from Jarrett Jenkins (Gerks kick), 11:49
Dacula: Edwards 14 pass from Jenkins (Gerks kick), 6:38
Dacula: Edwards 2 run (Gerks kick), 10:10
Dacula: Edwards 88 run (Gerks kick), 6:57
Dacula: Voshon Porte 35 INT return (Gerks kick), 5:51
Dalton: Jahmyr Gibbs 39 run (Robledo kick), 2:36
Dalton: Karim Page 23 pass from Landon Allen (Gibbs run), 4:02
Rushing — Dalton: Gibbs 23-171, Maurice Howard 6-13, Allen 1-3. Dacula: Edwards 10-193, Trenton Jones 12-106, E’mond Pittman 8-28, Efford 5-23, Konata Mumpfield 1-8, Trevon Shuler 2-3, Jaylen Drummond 1-2, Blaine Jenkins 1-2.
Passing — Dalton: Landon Allen 5-18-3, 44. Dacula: J. Jenkins 7-9-0, 140; Edwards 0-1-0, 0.
Receiving — Dalton: Page 2-30, Gibbs 2-6, Hunter Noland 1-8. Dacula: Edwards 3-88, Mumpfield 2-23, Chris Scott 1-19, Daniel Poole 1-10.