By Eric McDonald
For the Forsyth County News
It was a tough season opener on Friday night at home for Lambert, as the Longhorns were defeated by Wheeler Wildcats, 28-14.
“We have got to learn from our mistakes,” Lambert head coach Louis Daniel said. “We made a lot of rookie mistakes and we have to execute better.”
The Longhorns (0-1) struggled in their very possession of the first quarter, when its offense was pinned down after a costly holding penalty by the Longhorns at their own 24-yard line. Quarterback Payton Rich then attempted a pass, only to be intercepted by Wheeler defensive lineman Jalen Jordan, who rumbled 24 yards for the Wildcats’ first defensive touchdown of the night.
The Longhorns began to have success with its next offensive series when Rich connected with Blake Nichols for a huge gain, only for Nichols to fumble the ball trying to fight for extra yardage. Wheeler recovered on the play.
On its very first possession in the second quarter, Wheeler quarterback C. J. Ogbonna connected with Jeremiah Pruittle on a go route that went 93-yards for the Wildcats first offensive touchdown of the night. That gave Wheeler a 14-0 lead with 9:34 remaining in the half.
In the second half, the Longhorns would not go quietly, as they mounted a 15-play drive that concluded with a pass from Rich to John Thompson for a 24-yard score.
The Longhorns began to mount another long drive in the fourth quarter only for Payton Rich to throw his fourth interception of the night to Taylor Smith of Wheeler on the 29-yard line.
The Wildcats wasted no time mounting up a 7-play drive that ended with Quarius Smith taking a handoff from Ogbonna in the back field and rumbling 29 yards for another Wildcats touchdown. That gave Wheeler a 28-7 lead.
In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, the Longhorns fought to the very end, as the offense mounted a 7-play drive that ended in a touchdown pass from Rich to John Thompson with 2:36 remaining.
“I love how the way we competed to the end,” Daniel said. “If you’re going to make mistakes, you going to have to tough enough to handle the consequence of those mistakes. These kids are tough enough to handle those mistakes, (and) I’m proud of them because they fought to the very end.”