A week after winning their first region title in school history, Lambert beat Central Gwinnett 44-14 at home on Friday night to win their first state playoff game in school history.
It started as a simple goal for Longhorns head coach Louis Daniels and his team: set goals and achieve them. From the first day of practice, the Longhorns had their eyes locked in on making history. Even when the season started rocky, dropping three of their first four games, Daniels just continued to focus on those two goals.
“We wanted to win the region and we wanted to win a playoff game. We talked about it all year,” said Daniels. “Through those first five games, we had some adversity, but we kept reminding those guys to look ahead to region play.”
Lambert went on to string together a 4-1 region record to secure the region title, and thus began step two. Now, Lambert will host North Cobb (9-2) in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs next week.
Lambert’s defense was in for a tall task against Central Gwinnett. Central scored over 40 points in five games over the course of the season, but it was Lambert’s defense that led the way.
The first drive of the game, Lambert forced and recovered a fumble. This set up a 26-yard strike from quarterback Richie Kenney to Justin Bruno on the ensuing offensive drive. The next Central Gwinnett possession ended with a turnover on downs.
Later in the first quarter, Ken Dicks snagged an interception and returned it 45-yards to the opponent’s 8 yard line, and Brian Wright punched it in from 4 yards out to make it a 16-0 game.
The only flaw in the Longhorns defense all night occurred in the second quarter. Central Gwinnett quarterback Jarren Williams began to utilize his legs to gain huge chunks of yards and keep drives alive. Williams scored twice in the second quarter, both times on rushing plays. He finished the half with 92 yards on the ground.
Lambert saw their 16-0 lead shrink to a 16-14 lead entering the half, but the defense kick started the second half domination. Central Gwinnett looked to punt, but Jaryd Jean-Felix blocked it, giving Lambert possession on the 10-yard line. Brian Wright punched it for his second touchdown of the game, making the score 23-14.
The Longhorn defense allowed negative 1-yard rushing in the second half. Williams finished 16-for-44 for 166 yards and two interceptions.
“Those guys on defense played phenomenally,” Daniels said. “We had a game plan to play man and to pressure them, and they knew that, but we still played man and got after the quarterback.”
Kenney and the offense finally began to find its own rhythm in the third quarter. A big 49-yard touchdown pass from Kenney to Deshon Stoudamire gave Lambert a 30-14 lead, a touchdown that sucked the life out of Central Gwinnett.
Kenney finished the night 12-for-24 passing for 167 yards and three touchdowns. Lambert’s rushing attack garnered 185 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s fulfilling to set a goal and to reach the goal,” Daniels said. “It feels good to win a playoff game.”