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Football: Lambert fumbles away chance to finally knock off Lanier
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SUGAR HILL – The third time wasn’t the charm, but it was close.

After dropping games in 2014 and 2015, Lambert once again walked away without a victory against Lanier, falling 35-28 on Friday night. The Longhorns in crimson led the Longhorns in black for 47 of the game’s 48 minutes, but the worst mistake possible came at just about the worst time.

With just over 2 minutes on the clock, Lambert (1-3) lined up on offense from its 20 after a strong defensive stop near midfield. But on the first play of the hopeful winning drive quarterback Richie Kenney and tailback Justin Bruno dropped the exchange. Lanier linebacker Juwuan Jones jumped on the ball and returned it to the 4-yard line. Lanier (2-2) quarterback Noah Fritz scored his second touchdown of the night three plays later on a sneak up the middle with just 57 seconds remaining, and Tyler Taylor intercepted Kenney in the waning moments to seal the win.

For Lambert, it was the third game this season where things went the wrong way in the final moments. The Longhorns led 21-7 at halftime thanks to big scoring plays, but two big mistakes in the second half helped Lanier take momentum—a special teams blunder and an untimely fumble.

“I’m very proud of the way our kids fought, they played their tails off,” Lambert head coach Louis Daniel said. “But this game really came down to two big errors, which turned into 14 easy points for them. Our team just has to be consistently good. We’re not there yet. We’ve competed in all three of our losses and it’s just been little details here or there that have hurt us.”

After Fritz connected with receiver Alex Wyant for a 29-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter, Lanier’s Michael Allen blocked a Lambert punt and Taylor picked up the ball, racing 40 yards for the game tying touchdown.

Kenney connected with Tyler Gillis for a 10-yard touchdown to take the lead back in the fourth, but Lanier bounced right back with a 35-yard run from tailback Tywon Reaves, followed by a 31-yard scoring run from Fritz.

Before things went sour late, Lambert looked juiced—especially coming off a heartbreaking 50-36 loss last week to Cherokee where the lead slipped away late. Kenney threw a 50-yard scoring strike down the seam to Bruno, making his first start of the season, to give Lambert the first points of the game. Two drives later Gillis grabbed one of Kenney’s passes in stride—with one hand—and raced to the end zone to make the score 14-0.

Fritz connected with receiver Paul Miller for a second quarter score to get Lanier on the board, but Bruno followed right after with an 87-yard scoring scamper down the sideline. Lanier was driving late in the half before linebacker Dylan Shepherd jumped in front of a Fritz pass for an interception.

Despite the fumble, it was a breakout game for Bruno, who carried 17 of the Longhorns’ 24 runs—a rarity for an offense that has used a tailback-by-committee approach with an endless list or running backs over the last two years. Bruno finished with 127 yards on the ground and 65 through the air on three catches, while scoring twice.

“We’re really bringing him along. He’s got talent. He’s super fast,” Daniel said of Bruno. “But he’s just learning how to be a running back. He’s an athlete, but he’s learning, and he’s going to continue to get better.”

Gillis finished with five catches for 119 yards and two scores, while Kenney was 13 of 23 passing with 263 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception.

Reaves led Lanier on the ground with 124 yards on 18 carries, while Fritz added 64 on 17 and completed 14 of 25 passes for 205 yards and four total touchdowns.

With the loss Lambert becomes the only football team in Forsyth County to have a losing record after four weeks, but Daniel thinks the close games against quality opponents will pay off when region play hits.

“It’s all about getting these guys to believe in themselves every single play,” Daniel said.