Lambert head coach Louis Daniel told his team before Friday’s game that they would need to execute to near-perfection beat Alpharetta.
The Longhorns were far from perfect.
Alpharetta held Lambert to 155 total yards, forced four turnovers and got three rushing touchdowns from senior running back Miles Smith in a 35-17 win at The Horn.
"Effort was there tonight, but low execution," Daniel said. "Defensively, we were OK — we had a good scheme and the right plan, but we’ve got to improve on offense to give our defense a break."
In Lambert’s two losses this season, the Longhorns (1-3, 1-2 Region 6-AAAAAA) started to wear down defensively after 60 plays. It was fitting, then, that the Raiders scored a touchdown on their 60th snap of the night, a 39-yard scamper by Smith with 12 seconds left in the third quarter. Alpharetta ran 76 plays in total.
With the Longhorns short-handed on defense—defensive end Trevon McSwain sat out due to a concussion — Alpharetta (3-1, 3-0) used a quick tempo offense to great effect. Austin King completed 10-of-11 passes in the second half for 122 yards and a touchdown; he finished 19-of-27 for 232 yards with one touchdown and an interception. The Raiders had five runs of 10 or more yards in the second half.
"We knew we had to be patient with the run game, with Lambert missing some kids on defense," Alpharetta coach Jacob Nichols said. "Those creases started to open up as the game went along and they wore down."
Lambert completed one pass in the first half; for the game, the Longhorns averaged just 2.8 yards per carry.
"Our defense is playing 70 to 80 plays every Friday night, and that’s killing them," Daniel said. "No defense should have to be on the field that much."
Smith opened the scoring with just over three minutes gone in the second quarter. King hit James Marbaugh (4 catches, 44 yards) for a 12-yard gain on 3rd-and-11 and Lem Cobbs (16 carries, 67 yards) ripped off a 20-yard run to the Lambert 20. A personal foul on Lambert gave Alpharetta 3rd-and-2 at the 10; Smith took a handoff up the middle for a deserved lead.
Later in the second quarter, Lambert defensive back Houston Earnest (20 receiving yards, fumble recovery) breathed the first sign of life for the Longhorns with an interception of King in the end zone, but only for a fleeting moment. Alpharetta defensive back Matt Moore intercepted Reid Martin at the Lambert 28 after a bad snap; Smith sprinted off right tackle and beat several Longhorn defenders to the pylon to put the Raiders up 14-0.
Perhaps a microcosm of Lambert’s evening was King’s 46-yard touchdown strike to Nick Carlton in the third quarter. Carlton lined up to King’s left and ran a deep post route with Longhorn cornerback Jeremy Johnson on his hip. King’s pass snuck between Johnson and another defender; Carlton spun away and jogged in to the end zone.
"Jeremy took his eye off the ball for a split second, but if he had been able to intercept that, he’s in the end zone," Daniel said. "He looked at the receiver real quick, and, boom, [Carlton] was by him."
Officiating marred the final quarter. Lambert senior Adison Schimmelpfenning was called for a dead-ball personal foul after an Alpharetta punt — meaning the Longhorns should have been penalized 15 yards from where the play ended. Instead, officials gave the ball back to Alpharetta. Daniel called timeout to buy time. After a lengthy delay, Lambert got the ball — and their timeout — back.
"I thought I was going to have a brain aneurysm out there," Daniel said.
Alpharetta, too, dealt with officiating issues. The GHSA referee told Nichols that Dejon Rowe, the Raiders’ best defensive back, had been ejected for his second personal foul of the game — a non-existent rule. When Nichols asked for clarification, he was told that Rowe was ejected for throwing a punch. Rowe’s ejection was never announced.
"I don’t do this normally, but the referees were awful," Nichols said. "When I asked if Dejon had to miss next week’s game [because of the ejection], they didn’t have an answer for me."
After play resumed, the Raiders’ Quinn Tucci recovered a Lambert fumble at the Longhorn 14; four plays later, Cobbs took a delayed handoff for a 6-yard touchdown.