For one quarter Friday night, Decatur’s game at Greater Atlanta Christian looked like a smash Broadway hit, one of those shows playing to rave reviews month after month. The Bulldogs, in their most intense and imaginative 12 minutes in a long time, seemed to have erased all traces of last week’s 46-point loss to Buford.
But halfway through the second quarter the curtain came crashing down. Ultimately the Bulldogs’ opening act merged into a critical disaster and a 69-31 defeat to the state’s third ranked team in AA.
Decatur opened with junior Terryon Robinson running a screen pass 85 yards for a touchdown and the Bulldogs led GAC 22-7 with 1:35 left in the quarter.
But GAC’s dazzling array of running backs, as interchangeable as they were unstoppable, proved too much.
“We knew they had a strong, strong offense, probably one of the best in the state,” said Decatur head coach Price Jones. “We knew they were deep, and we knew they’d just keep coming. I just wish now and then we’d tackle somebody.”
Consider that the Spartans needed only 16 first-half plays – out of which Decatur made only nine tackles – to come from behind and take a 35-25 halftime lead.
GAC eventually rolled up a massive 464 total yards in 45 plays (Decatur ran 13 more plays for 301 yards total offense, only 61 of those in the second half). Diminutive senior tailback Lavondre Nelson led a cadre of GAC rushers with about 180 yards on only seven carries.
It was Nelson, in fact, who caught a toss into the flat before darting, spinning and sizzling 65 yards to cut Decatur’s lead to 22-14 with 1:11 left in the first half. Several seconds into the second quarter Decatur’s Jason Barefoot nailed a 41-yard field goal and the Bulldogs once again seemed in control at 25-14.
But the Spartans sliced it to 25-21 when DaSean Daniels spurted 29 yards up the middle for a touchdown. When Decatur followed with a promising eight-play, 70-yard drive, it was quashed when quarterback Vito Antinozzi fumbled and GAC recovered on its own 37. On the very next play Daniels caught a 63-yard pass and GAC took the lead for the first time, and for good, at 28-25 with 6:18 left until intermission.
Decatur built its lead with a number of deft, newly-unveiled plays. On its second drive of the game, Antinozzi (who completed an impressive 20 of 31 passes for 133 yard), threw a screen to Robinson, who then threw a 40-yard sideline pass to Perez Cowan, setting up the quarterback’s neat 2-yard touchdown pass to seldom-used tight end Alex Fowler. This was followed by a never-seen-before end run by identical twin Terez Cowan for a two-point conversion.
Later in the quarter Antinozzi, poised in the shotgun, dropped the snap but recovered and turned it into a 31-yard gain, which set up Barefoot’s field goal. Antinozzi, in fact, was the Bulldogs leading ground gainer with 58 yards on nine carries.
It was also a night where Robinson was once again fully integrated into the offense. Sometimes operating at wide receiver, sometimes at tailback (for the first time this season) the powerfully-talented junior caught seven passes for 126 yards and had two carries for 18 yards, not counting his 40 yard pass.
On top of that, midway through the second quarter, he took a pitch from Antinozzi, dropped back and rifled an 11-yard completion to that same Antinozzi, the sophomore quarterback’s first reception of his high school career.
But in the end, Decatur was plagued by familiar problems. There was the fumble that set up GAC’s go-ahead touchdown, the requisite blocked punt that was returned 22 yards for a touchdown, a 40-yard interception returned by the tiresome Daniels, and another interception – when Decatur had advanced to GAC’s 22 – that set up the home team’s next to last touchdown.
Kick coverage continues to mystify the Bulldogs more than ever, with GAC returning a total seven kickoffs or punts for 220 yards or 31 yards per return. But in the end the defense simply didn’t, as Jones said, tackle anything substantial. Nine of GAC’s 10 possession ended in touchdowns.
“Thank goodness we’re off this week,” Jones said. “We’re going to spend the week going back to fundamentals. And I swear to goodness, one way or another, this team is going to learn to tackle, whatever it takes.
Decatur, now 2-5, will not play again until the Oct. 21 homecoming against Twiggs County (0-6 with Friday night’s score still unreported). GAC plays Clarkston next week, setting up its October 21 showdown at Buford.
Decatur Notes: High School is reeling after death of former basketball player
On Friday Decatur High students were stunned to learn about the shooting death of Dujon Parker, a 2010 graduate and former basketball player. Dujon, a 6-2 post man, started every game during Carter Wilson’s final season as head coach in 2009-10, and helped lead that team to a 22-6 record and state tournament berth.
Details remain sketchy about the incident, although the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday that Dujon was shot at the Citgo gas station in the 2300 block of Glenwood Avenue, near Second Avenue. The newspaper reported Dujon was sitting in Citgo’s parking lot “when he was approached by the suspect and an argument started, Atlanta police Maj. Keith Meadows said. The fight became physical and the suspect pulled out a handgun, he said.
“During the struggle, at least two shots were fired, and the [Dujon] was hit in the chest, Meadows said. [Dujon] died after being transported to Grady Memorial Hospital.”
Dujon, 19, was planning on enrolling next quarter at Georgia Perimeter College. The suspect remains unidentified and at large.
This is simply terrible news, for Dujon is highly thought of by everyone who coached or knew him during his Decatur years.