Lambert had not trailed at halftime all season, nor had they faced much adversity in the first two rounds of the playoffs against Hillgrove and Pope.
So when the Longhorns faced a 6-4 deficit to upset-minded Etowah during intermission of the Class AAAAAA state semifinal on Wednesday night program director Rich Wehman wanted to make sure he said the right thing.
“We just talked about how we didn't play very well in the first half, not how we usually do,” Wehman said. “They just had to reach within themselves, play with better intensity and execute.”
Lambert responded, outscoring the Eagles 6-1 in the second half to win 10-7 and clinch a spot in the state championship game, which will either be at Lambert or Lassiter on Saturday. It's the third state championship game appearance for Lambert's eager seniors, who are 0-2 in title tilts and were eliminated in a first-round upset last year.
The Longhorns last won state championships in 2011 and 2012, and have not won a title in the higher lacrosse-specific classification, AAAAAA.
Senior faceoff specialist Trey Arnold made sure he did his part, helping the Longhorns win 18 of 21 faceoffs. He also made sure to keep his cool while trailing 3-1 and 6-4.
“I was nervous I guess. Yes, and no,” Arnold said. “In the moment you've got jitters but deep down I knew we had one of the best teams in the state and that we'd battle back. I'm very proud of them for doing that tonight.”
Junior Alex Walker led the Longhorns (20-0) in scoring with four goals and an assist, while Matt O'Rourk, Conrad McEvoy, Eric Overbay, Jake Alesia, Grant Plaugher and Chris Price each scored individual goals. Overbay added two assists.
Etowah (15-6) had a hat trick from Spencer Patton, along with goals from Alec Drosos, Ian McCauley and Max Beaham.
Considering the winning reputation Lambert has built in its short history, Wehman knows his team's run to the championship required laser focus and the ability to deflect distractions.
“You know, it's funny, and I think I found this out, when you have had the success we've had people expect it and it's tough for the players to live underneath that,” Wehman said. “For them to work through the entire season, methodically, game by game, I don't think they've been flat all year, and that's a lot about who they are and how much they want to win it all.”
Lambert will face an 18-2 Trojans team that has won close games in the playoffs, including a 9-8 victory over North Gwinnett Wednesday night. Their only losses were to North Gwinnett and Allatoona earlier in the year.
Lambert will visit Lassiter for the title game as a result of a coin flip. Game time is 6 p.m.