By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
There were plenty of positives to be taken from Lambert’s 46-28 Friday night loss at Chattahoochee High School, contrary to the score.
The Longhorns endured a slow start on both sides of the ball and snatched a 7-3 lead midway through the second quarter. They entered the half down less than a field goal. They led the Cougars with less than four minutes remaining in the third.
For the second time in as many weeks, there were numerous stretches where the growing pains expected from starting multiple new players on both sides of the ball seemed virtually non-existent for the 2019 Horns.
For the second time in as many weeks, there were also stretches where the new-look Lambert football team couldn’t seem to get out of their own way.
“We didn’t play well,” Lambert coach Louis Daniel said. “At times we looked pretty good, but consistently we didn’t make plays.”
After allowing completions of 25, 13, and 20 yards to Chattahoochee quarterback Jaylen Smith on his opening drive, the Lambert defense settled down and looked very much to be continuing off of their scoreless second half against Wheeler the previous week.
A couple of scoreless possessions later, Lambert quarterback Peyton Rich settled down, and with added boost from a 34-yard run by running back Chase Bombard, the Longhorn offense began marching their way to their first lead of the game.
For over a complete quarter of play, the two teams shared a slugfest.
Lambert’s lead lasted a little more than two minutes, with Smith connecting on back-to-back, 35-yard completions and finding the endzone on the second one.
The Longhorns retook the lead on 12-yard-touchdown pass by Rich, with less than two minutes remaining, then lost it once again two plays later thanks to a 61-yard scamper and 20-yard touchdown pass by Smith.
“There are definitely growing pains,” Daniel said. “We’re definitely growing, and it’s a pain. I have to look at the film.”
The slugfest and resulting lead changes continued into the third quarter, including three separate touchdowns within 22 seconds, two of them occurring on back-to-back kickoff returns by both teams.
The turning point and easily the biggest momentum shift of the night came on the following possession.
Down 31-28 midway through the third thanks to Chattahoochee’s successful two-point conversion, Rich fired a pass that bounced off the chest of receiver Kojo Antwi and floated long enough for a Cougar defender to pull in the interception. Smith connected with yet another open receiver on the following play and giving the Cougars the first multi-score lead of the game—one that they would not surrender.
The Horns never truly seemed to find an answer for Smith and his compliment of receivers, with the Chattahoochee junior finishing his night with 289 yards on 26 attempts. Rich finished his own with 112 yards on 29 attempts while Bombard added 97 yards on 14 carries.
“The guys, they fight and they play hard,” Daniel said. “We have to reexamine what we’re doing and just get better.”