Allatoona relied on its tried-and-true formula - run the ball and play good defense - Friday in its Class AAAAAA first-round playoff game against Hughes in Acworth.
Throw in a couple of touchdown passes from Dante Marshall and two field goals by Skyler Davis, and the Buccaneers had little trouble in a 27-7 victory.
Allatoona (8-3), the No. 2 seed from Region 6, will go on the road next week to meet Region 8 champion Dacula (7-4), which advanced with a 42-14 victory over Pope. The victory was Allatoona’s sixth straight after starting the season 2-3.
This is Allatoona’s eighth consecutive appearance in the playoffs. The Buccaneers are 6-2 in first-round games and 4-1 in the second round during that stretch.
Hughes, the No. 3 seed from Region 5, finished 7-4.
Allatoona took a 7-0 lead on its first possession on a 1-yard run by Brandon Nash, who led the Buccaneers with 61 yards rushing on seven carries. The Buccaneers went 80 yards in 10 plays, all but one of which came on the ground.
Hughes tied the score on its next possession, but Allatoona reclaimed the lead for good on a 40-yard field goal by Davis with 3:14 to play in the half. Hughes didn’t threaten the rest of the way.
Marshall threw touchdown passes of 32 yards to Adrian Boyd and 20 yards to Mario Gambaccini in the third quarter as the Buccaneers began to pull away, and Davis completed the scoring with a 20-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
Allatoona finished with 307 yards of total offense. The Buccaneers ran the ball 54 times for 215 yards, and Marshall was 6-of-11 passing for 92 yards. Boyd rushed for 51 yards on 18 carries, and Lilton Moore had 47 yards on 12 carries.
“[The defense] got the ball back to us, and we were able to drive the ball and use some clock and do some good things in the second half,” Allatoona coach Gary Varner said. “Overall I thought the team did pretty good today.”
Hughes hit the Buccaneers with a couple of big plays on the first possession of the game and
scored its only touchdown the next time it got the ball, but the Panthers weren’t able to generate anything offensively the rest of the night.
Hughes was held to minus-3 yards and one first down over the final three quarters and had just 10 yards on 10 plays in the second half. Six of those yards came on a run by Christian Royalston on the final play of the game.
“Our defense made some adjustments,” Varner said. “[Hughes] had a good team. They’ve got some really good running backs and skill players that moved the ball and gave us a little bit of trouble. I thought we made some really good adjustments, and in the the second half the defense led the way. We’re a defense team; they’ve got to lead us.”
Royalston finished with 87 yards rushing on 14 carries, but most of that work (75 yards and 11 carries) came in the first half. And the Panthers had 68 rushing yards as a team, thanks in part to three sacks and a mishandled snap on a punt.
Quarterback Jacquez Milam 4-for-13 passing for 70 yards.
Hughes moved the ball into Allatoona territory on its first three drives but came away with just seven points. The Panthers took the opening kickoff and drove to the Allatoona 19 in four plays, including a 28-yard pass from Milam to Ladarius McKee on the first play from scrimmage and a 24-yard run by Royalston on the second. But the Panthers turned the ball over on downs at the 20 when Royalston was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-2.
After giving up Nash’s touchdown run, Hughes tied the score when Milam recovered a fumble in the end zone at the end of a 7-yard run by Royalston. The Panthers went 80 yards in nine plays to make it 7-7 with 1:29 to play in the quarter.
Hughes recovered an Allatoona fumble at midfield on the ensuing kickoff but was forced to punt after picking up 9 yards on the next three plays.
Hughes - 7-0-0-0 - 7
Allatoona - 7-3-14-3 - 27
A - Brandon Nash 1 run (Skyler Davis kick)
H - Jacquez Milam recovered fumble in end zone (Zidane Bogle kick)
A - Davis 40 field goal
A - Adrian Boyd 32 pass from Dante Marshall (Davis kick)
A - Mario Gambaccini 20 pass from Marshall (Davis kick)
A - Davis 20 field goal