Lambert endured another slow start, but still came away with the victory on Friday night.
The Longhorns forced three turnovers to outlast Johns Creek 21-10 in a physical game at The Horn for their third consecutive win.
"It was just a team effort," senior defensive back Zach Matthews said. "Everybody played together. Everybody has to do their thing in order to win."
Johns Creek (0-7, 0-4 in Region 6-AAAAAA) put up the first points of the game late in the first half, after a well-balanced, methodical drive was capped off by an 8-yard touchdown run from quarterback Chase Solomon.
However, Lambert (4-3, 3-1) was able to capture the momentum before the half when senior safety Jordyn Jean-Felix intercepted Solomon and returned it 38 yards to the Johns Creek 7.
On the next play, Kameron Pickett ran it in to tie the game at 7-apiece with roughly a minute left in the first half.
Pickett didn’t have a lot of room to run in the game, but still managed to finish the game with 19 carries and 45 yards with a touchdown.
The game was a slugfest in the first half, as neither team was able to do much. But, Lambert made the necessary adjustments at halftime, and really asserted its will in the second half.
"The biggest thing we did was stay the course," Lambert coach Sid Maxwell said. "Some people had to step up and make plays. The big thing is we were steady all night. We weren’t real flashy but we were consistent. We made some adjustments and the boys played hard."
"[Maxwell] just said we need to keep playing our game," Matthews said. "The only thing that hurt us was misalignments. If we can get lined up, we can stop them. And if we can stop them from scoring, we’ll win the game."
The Longhorns kept the momentum going to begin the third quarter. They drove right down the field on a quick six-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a 23-yard touchdown strike from Hayden McLeod to Chris Laye. McLeod tacked on another score when he scrambled around on fourth-and-7 until he finally found Houston Earnest in the front-left corner of the end zone to put the Longhorns up 21-10.
McLeod finished the game 11-of-16 for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He also added five carries for 25 yards on the ground.
"Any time you win, I’m sure there’s a lot we can work on but our goal is to win each week and to put our team in a chance to win," Maxwell said. "The overall goal is to try to finish with one more point than they have, so we don’t try to get too fancy."
The third quarter was the difference. Not only did Lambert outscore the Gladiators 14-3 in the quarter, but Johns Creek managed only nine offensive plays as the Longhorns controlled the tempo of the game.
"Everyone played as a team," Jean-Felix said. "We were doing our assignments, and just flying to the ball, that’s what it’s all about."
Jean-Felix and Matthews led a stingy Longhorn defense that held the Gladiators to 181 total yards, including 2-for-11 on third down, and forced three turnovers.
"We know where we want to go," Matthews said. "If we want to win a region championship, we have to win out. The goal is just to win every game."
The final nail was put in the Gladiators’ coffin when senior Brandon Miller picked off Solomon, for the Longhorns’ second interception of the game, with only a couple of minutes to play.
Lambert left the game with its heads held high, while Johns Creek is still seeking that elusive first win of the 2013 season.
"We definitely have momentum moving forward," Jean-Felix said. "I think we can beat any team in the region."