ALPHARETTA – Although Lambert entered Friday night’s road game against regionally undefeated Alpharetta as considerable underdogs, the Longhorns gave an incredibly gutsy performance in a losing effort, falling just short 14-12.
Lambert (4-4, 3-2, Region 6-AAAAAA) fell behind 14-0 in the first half and was lackluster offensively throughout the contest, but the Longhorns’ defense terrorized the high powered Alpharetta (6-2, 5-0) offense, not allowing the Raiders to pull away late.
"We had a tremendous effort tonight," Lambert coach Sid Maxwell said. "Our defense played tough and the offense had some opportunities, but we just came up a little short. [Alpharetta] applied a ton of pressure and we just had to make some plays, but we came up a little short offensively."
The pivotal point in the game came in the first three minutes of the first quarter. After Lambert’s methodical 12-play drive left it with a fourth-and-goal on the Raiders 1 yard line, the Longhorns decided to go for the touchdown as opposed to kicking a short range field goal. Quarterback Tucker Maxwell attempted to score on a quarterback sneak, but the snap was mishandled and the play failed, keeping the game scoreless.
The Longhorns’ offense played one of their worst games to date, providing almost nothing in the way of production. Maxwell (5-of-18, 55 yards, 1 INT) struggled mightily and was unable to sustain drives to keep his offense on the field. Leading Longhorns rusher Kameron Pickett (17 carries, 32 yards) also had little to show for his efforts.
While the Lambert offense fell short, the defense excelled. Although Alpharetta gained 200 yards through the air, the Longhorns forced three interceptions and shut out the Raiders in the second half.
Lambert junior Jeremy Johnson provided the crucial spark that his team desperately needed. Trailing 14-3 in the fourth quarter and with Alpharetta driving deep in Longhorn territory, Johnson lunged in front of an attempted touchdown pass and intercepted it. He sprinted down the far sideline behind a convoy of blockers and scored a 99-yard interception-return touchdown. Lambert then attempted a two-point conversion to cut the lead to a field goal, but an errant Maxwell passed left the Longhorns trailing 14-9 with 8:21 left in the game.
"I think it helped to change the entire momentum of the game," Johnson said. "Everybody was kind of down and feeling a little flat, but afterwards, everyone got excited. I wish that we could have punched in the [first quarter] touchdown, but we’re not out of the playoff race yet, so we just have to keep working hard and win these next two games."
After Lambert’s Tanner Hall kicked his second field goal of the game to shrink the Raiders lead to 14-12 late in the fourth quarter, the Longhorns defense forced Alpharetta to punt the ball with 1:26 left in the game, just enough time for one last Lambert drive. However, the anemic offense promptly ended any thoughts of a comeback as Maxwell was intercepted on the first play of the drive, thereby ending the game.
With only two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Longhorns have little margin for error if they still hope to contend for the playoffs.
"Alpharetta has been playing really well of late," Maxwell said. "We were able to put ourselves in a situation to come out on top tonight. That’s something that helps keep our heads high and now we just go back to work."