JOHNS CREEK —For the first time in program history, Lambert’s season will end without a trip to the state playoffs.
Chattahoochee handed the Longhorns their fourth straight loss, 48-14, on Friday at The Arena and eliminated them from postseason contenion.
The Longhorns entered the day needing to win both of their final two games to have a chance to reach the playoffs. Instead, Lambert will miss the postseason for the first time in its three-year history.
Lambert’s defense did everything it could in the first half at Chattahoochee (6-3, 4-2 Region 6-AAAAAA) to make up for an offense that struggled mightily without injured quarterback Brock Maxwell.
The Longhorns’ offense managed only 23 yards of offense in the first half and did not get a single first down, recording seven three-and-outs and one turnover. Lambert trailed just 14-0 at halftime thanks to a defense that had forced four three-and-outs of its own, but the Longhorns could not continue to contain the Cougars high powered attack in the second half.
Chattahoochee blew the game open by scoring on its first four offensive possessions in the second half.
"We made a big jump [from Class 4A] to 6A this year and it has been a learning experience," Lambert coach Sid Maxwell said. "We have got to work harder, step it up in the weight room and get stronger. We have had a lot of success real early as a program with back-to-back playoff appearances, but now it is time to come in and finish strong next week."
Chattahoochee took control of the game early, scoring on the first offensive series of the game with a seven-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a C.J. Leggett (43 rushing yards, 2 TD) three-yard touchdown run with 9:47 left in the quarter.
Five seconds into the second quarter, Leggett added another touchdown run — this time from five yards out — to double the lead to 14-0.
Chattahoochee forced a punt on Lambert’s first series of the second half and took over at its own 23.
Quarterback Travis Marshall (17 of 30, 286 passing yards, TD; 67 rushing yards, TD) hit receiver Avery Ward (4 catches, 126 receiving yards, TD) for a 77-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive to put the Cougars up 21-0 with 10:08 left in the third.
The Cougars then executed a surprise onside kick and recovered the ball at the Lambert 47-yard line. It took Chattahoochee six plays to get to the end zone, as running back Chase Nelson (56 yards rushing, 2 TD) went in from four yards out to make it 27-0 with 8:13 left in the third quarter.
The Longhorns’ offense showed some life after that drive, scoring on its next two possessions.
On the first drive, Lambert (5-4, 2-4) went seven plays and 80 yards before scoring on a six-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Hayden McLeod (17 of 30, 100 passing yards, TD; 66 rushing yards, TD) to T.J. Russell (10 catches, 71 receiving yards, TD) with 5:07 left in the third to cut it to 27-7.
The touchdown was set up by a 23-yard completion from McLeod to Russell on 3rd-and-13 earlier in the drive.
Chattahoochee answered with a 68-yard kickoff return from Justin Jackson that put the Cougars’ offense on the Lambert 31-yard line. Nelson gained all 31-yards in two runs and scored from 21 yards out with 4:07 to play to make it 34-7.
McLeod produced Lambert’s second score on a one-yard run with 8.7 seconds left in the third quarter, shortly after a 40-yard run by Register.
The Cougars’ offense answered with their final offensive score of the game on the ensuing drive, capped by a five-yard touchdown run from Marshall with 10:09 left that made it 41-14.
The games’ final score came with 43.5 seconds to play as Lambert tried to get in the end zone from the 3-yard line. McLeod had the ball stripped at the goal line and Jackson recovered for Chattahoochee, scooping the ball up and going 100 yards to make it 48-14 with 24.5 seconds left.
Lambert finished the game with 273 yards of total offense — almost all of it (250 yards) of it in the second half.
"We finally started to block a little better and our guys kept running hard that’s why we were able to move the ball in the second half," Maxwell said.
"Our defense played really well all night," Maxwell said. "We just gave up some big plays and that hurt us. Against fast teams like this you can’t be chasing their fast guys and that’s what we were doing. We were chasing them, we just weren’t catching them."
Lambert will try to play the role of spoiler on Friday when West Forsyth comes to The Horn looking to clinch the Region 6-AAAAAA championship.