Gainesville and Dacula have experienced a remarkably parallel path this season. After a slow start for both, one will remain undefeated in Region 8-6A play after facing off tonight in Gwinnett County.
The Red Elephants (2-4, 1-0 Region 8-6A) and Falcons (2-4, 1-0) both found themselves 1-4 after a grueling non-region stretch of the season. However, both won region openers on Oct. 6, putting Gainesville and Dacula right at the top of the region with eighth-ranked Winder-Barrow (7-0, 2-0).
“No doubt, there’s a lot of similarities between our team and Gainesville to this point,” said Dacula coach Tommy Jones said, who has coached against the Red Elephants at two different schools. “We’ve both played a very tough non-region schedule. Gainesville is always a very well-coached team with tremendous athleticism.”
Gainesville’s non-region road included losses to Class 4A’s third-ranked Jefferson, No. 6 Marist, Clarke Central and Alpharetta. However, the Red Elephants got things back on track with an exciting back-and-forth 30-27 win to open region play against Habersham Central seven days ago.
Meanwhile, Dacula’s early-season losses were to all Class 7A opponents (Central Gwinnett, Mill Creek, West Forsyth and Walton). However, the defending region champions beat Apalachee handily, 49-13, to open region play Oct. 6.
“We’ve both played a very tough non-region schedule,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “We know Dacula has a very good team, but we’re also very good, too.”
After playing tonight one will remain right in the thick of region title contention — even with an overall losing mark.
“We’ve not talked any about playing for the region title,” said Jones, who was coach at Lumpkin County during meetings against Gainesville in 2006 and 2007. “We’re just going one week at a time.”
The Red Elephants are paced on offense by junior quarterback Tre’ Luttrell, who steered the win against Habersham Central with a 81-yard touchdown pass to Trey Blackwell on a fourth-down play from the 19 to tie it at 27-27. Then in the closing seconds, Christian Jaimes knocked through a 35-yard game-winning field goal for the Red Elephants.
For the season, Luttrell stands at 703 passing yards and 329 on the ground for the Red Elephants. Gainesville’s leading running back is Montavious Tabor with 455 yards on 75 carries.
Dacula is also led by its quarterback Shayne Buckingham, who has very similar numbers to Luttrell. Buckingham has thrown for 659 yard while rushing for 230 and three touchdowns.
The Falcons’ backfield is divided up with Will Stovall (323 yards), Tre McMillian (220 yards) and Jalen Perry (179 yards) all figuring into the mix.
Perry, a junior defensive back, is the top prospect for Dacula. He holds offers from most major Division I programs in the southeast.
Dacula topped Gainesville 25-20 in 2016. It was their first meeting since 1997.
High school football Week 10 previews: North Hall looks to go 3-0 in region play.