Lambert waited seven years and five state playoff trips before it earned the first postseason victory ever for the program since it began in 2009.
But the thrill of the accomplishment was short-lived.
The Longhorns (7-4) were comfortably ahead by the end of the third quarter of their 44-14 victory against Central Gwinnett in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs last week.
By the final whistle, Lambert’s thoughts were already elsewhere.
“We were talking about who won the North Cobb-Tift County game,” Lambert head coach Louis Daniel said. “It went straight there.”
The answer: North Cobb (9-2), a regular playoff team itself under 11th-year head coach Shane Queen. The Warriors finished the season ranked No. 8 in Class 7A by the Georgia Sports Writers Association and were impressive in a 35-7 victory against Tift last week at home. Quarterback Will Lovett accounted for 255 total yards and two touchdowns, running back C.J. Cole rushed for 110 yards and two scores and linebacker Chandler Wooten, an Auburn commit, was disruptive in the backfield.
“They’re a very solid, well-coached football team,” Daniel said. “They’re a spread-type attack on offense. Real good on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Some good wide receivers, a good quarterback, a really good running back. They have a bunch of college-bound football players. They’re a well-rounded team.”
Lambert is now feeling as well-rounded of a team as it has all season.
The Longhorns had a rollercoaster regular season, due in part to new contributors and injuries, particularly the loss of defensive lineman Taylor Brinkerhoff, a first-team all-region player last season. Lambert was 1-3 through its first four games, and its defense was allowing 32 points a game through the first seven games. Its offense sputtered two straight weeks that included a loss at Milton. And still, the Longhorns navigated it all to win its first region championship.
Now, it seems the pieces are coming together. Brinkerhoff returned from his injury in the team’s final regular season game, then started against Central Gwinnett, making three tackles including one for a loss with a sack. The defense has allowed just 10.3 points a game over its last four games. The offense has scored 59 and 44 points in the past two games, respectively.
“These guys have gotten better every week,” Daniel said.
But this is a week – the second round of the state playoffs – Lambert has never seen before.
“I’m interested to see how it goes,” Daniel said, “but I don’t expect anything less than our guys showing up and playing hard. This football, they believe in each other, and they fight.”