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Flag Football: Lambert suffers gut-wrenching loss in state playoffs
12022022 LAMBERT FLAG
Lambert's Kennedy Dean gets her flag pulled by a Sequoyah defender in a first-round playoff matchup Tuesday at home. (Photo by Nicholas Sullivan)

After surviving a five-overtime thriller in the opening round, Lambert's flag football team couldn't repeat the feat in the Sweet 16 Tuesday at home.

Playing without injured standout quarterback Ava Falite, the Longhorns downed Sequoyah by a 7-6 margin, as fill-in QB C.C. Phillips scored on a tying touchdown run and winning 1-point conversion.

However, later that evening, Lambert dropped a 6-0 heartbreaker to North Gwinnett in double OT when Phillips was ruled short of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal keeper.

"They've done what they did every game all year," Longhorns head coach Jacob Chesser said. "A lot of grit. A lot of toughness. We were shorthanded, but girls stepped up to play.

"Credit to the other team, they played great. We just came up short today."

Area 6-D3 champion Lambert hosted its first-ever home playoff games, and the two contests played out similarly to the Longhorns' regular-season finale. All three contests went to overtime scoreless.

Against Forsyth Central, in a title-clinching win, Phillips proved to be the hero. The senior intercepted a pass to end the Bulldogs' first possession and followed it up with a touchdown catch from Falite to walk off victorious.

With Falite injuring her right leg during regulation, Phillips followed suit against fourth-seeded Sequoyah.

The Stetson lacrosse signee scored from 1 yard out in the second overtime period for a 6-0 lead, but the Chiefs knotted the score on their offensive turn.

At that point, the overtime format changed to alternating 1- or 2-point conversion attempts.

Following two scoreless periods and an unsuccessful try by Sequoyah to begin the fifth, Phillips scampered across the goal line to end the marathon game.

"When you go that long, it's not really something you practice for," Chesser said of the win. "The girls were battling through being tired and injuries. I would say, six out of seven of our starters on both sides were playing somewhat hurt. That's just how it is in the playoffs. Just a lot of toughness from the team. I'm super proud of them."

Immediately after No. 2 seed North Gwinnett earned a 13-0 victory against third-seeded Central Gwinnett, the Bulldogs and Longhorns played out another defensive slugfest.

Due to Falite's injury, Lambert became a much more run-oriented team. North Gwinnett, similarly, preferred to keep the ball on the ground, as rainfall made catching the ball a tough proposition.

Neither side came particularly close to scoring in regulation, but the Longhorns made a big stand in the first overtime period, breaking up a pass on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line.

The next play, though, saw North Gwinnett score on a 5-yard run to begin the second extra session.

Lambert tried to respond, with Phillips reaching across the goal line only to have a conference by the officials ultimately deem the ball did not break the plane prior to her flag being pulled.

It proved to be a gut-wrenching ending to the best season in program history. The defeat also capped a rough night overall for local flag football teams, with No. 3 seed Forsyth Central and fourth-seeded West Forsyth dropping their respective first-round matchups.

For the Longhorns, the campaign marked the end of the line for a group of seniors that helped lead a successful debut season for Chesser.

"The senior class we're graduating right now is unbelievable," he said. "It's a huge class. We're graduating a lot of girls, I think, there's 11 of them. They have turned this program into what it is along with some great coaches before me. They've built a rock-solid foundation, so it's only up from here."