Roswell 36, Lambert 13
Roswell 0 15 14 7_36
Lambert 7 0 6 0_13
L: Kohlins 10 run (kick good), 0:00
R: Coleman 2 pass from Whitaker (kick missed), 8:10
R: FG Barkhoff 28, 3:46
R: Victorian 76 interception return (kick missed), 0:00
L: Johnson 94 kickoff return (pass failed), 11:45
R: Evans 20 run (kick good), 10:18
R: Evans 8 run (kick good), 6:59
R: Evans 31 run (kick good), 2:56
RUSHING—Roswell: Evans 32-199; Slade 7-38; Whitaker 3-12. Lambert: O’Brien 26-84; Kohlins 3-22; Cole 4-9; Shepherd 1-2.
PASSING—Roswell: Whitaker 11-20 112. Lambert: Cole 2-13 24 2.
RECEIVING—Roswell: Slade 3-57; Coleman 2-15; Jackson 2-15; Evans 1-11; White 1-9; Harris 2-5. Lambert: Hall 2-24.
Lambert didn’t rattle off six straight wins and earn a home playoff game by playing it close to the vest every week. Every time the Longhorns needed to make a play over the two months, they made one.
That is, until two seconds remained in the first half on a sub-freezing night at the Horn. Lambert coach Louis Daniel wanted to give junior wide receiver Tanner Hall a chance to again make a big fourth-down catch for what he hoped would be a 44-yard touchdown heave.
Roswell’s pass rush forced Lambert quarterback Drew Cole to throw off his back foot. Hornets defensive back Justin Victorian stepped in front of Cole’s fling and coasted for a 76-yard interception return as Roswell eased to a 36-13 win to advance to the second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
"I could kick my own [butt] for that," Daniel said. "Everybody’s seen Tanner do crazy stuff. You never know, throw the ball up to the kid. As soon as the linebacker got through and was in Drew’s face, I thought, ‘Holy cow…please just tackle him.’"
Victorian’s pick-six (and a missed extra point) meant Roswell (8-3) entered the half up by just one score.
Lambert (7-4) kick returner Jeremy Johnson got that one score back for the Horns on the opening kickoff of the second half, fielding Roswell’s boot at his own 6, sprinting up the seam, cutting right and pulling away from his pursuers for a 94-yard touchdown.
Johnson said he was waiting for Roswell to kick it to him, even just once. The Hornets were one of the few teams this year that did, and they paid for it.
"Jeremy bailed [the coaching staff] out," Daniel said. "We caused that touchdown before the half, and Jeremy put us right back in the game. We had our chances."
Daniel knew his team could ill-afford any mistakes against a physical, athletic Roswell team.
"You looked at our kids and you looked at Roswell’s kids…we had to execute," he said. "And we didn’t tonight."
Lambert led after a cagey first quarter—both sides feeling each other out, as is typical of playoff games—thanks to Erick Kohlins’ (three carries, 22 yards, touchdown) 10-yard touchdown run up the middle as time expired in the period.
Senior Trevor O’Brien carried the ball 12 times for 50 yards in the first 12 minutes alone, but the Hornets held him to 34 yards on 14 carries the rest of the way.
"Their offensive line was really strong and really well-coached," Roswell coach John Ford said. "No. 2 is a special back. He’s so strong and he doesn’t go down easily, but we tackled well when he did get past the line."
Roswell sophomore running back Sheldon Evans tallied 199 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. Evans made his mark in the second half, carrying it 22 times for 170 yards, including the Hornets’ two most important runs of the night.
After Johnson brought Lambert within two, Roswell answered with a four-play, 75 yard touchdown drive. Mechane Slade (three catches, 57 yards; seven carries, 38 yards) caught a 26-yard pass from James Whitaker (11-for-20, 112 yards, touchdown) to get Roswell to the Longhorn 49.
Evans did the rest, running for 29 yards and then 20 yards, picking his way down the right side for a touchdown that gave Roswell the breathing room it needed.
"Sheldon Evans is a special kid," Ford said. "He can do it all, but the best thing about him is he gets stronger as the game goes on."
Victorian added his second interception of the night on Lambert’s next drive. Again, it was Evans taking advantage, bruising up the gut for an 8-yard touchdown on third-and-two. Just like that, Roswell led by 16, and Lambert looked bereft of ideas.
The Longhorns started Friday’s game with two sophomores at inside linebacker in the absence of Chad Conner—not ideal against the 210-pound Evans and a strong Roswell offensive line.
Their luck worsened when senior Adison Schimmelpfenning went down in the third quarter with a neck injury that kept him down on the field for several minutes. Schimmelpfenning eventually walked off under his own power. Lambert trainers would not let him go back in the game, he said, and with good reason.
By Roswell’s final fourth-quarter drive, Evans was just showing off, and he capped the Hornets’ night with a 31-yard touchdown run.
"They didn’t give us any looks we hadn’t seen or weren’t prepared for," Daniel said. "I’m not really sure what happened. We got caught in some tight spots over the last six games and it seemed like we always had the ball bounce our way. Tonight, in almost every instance, it went against us."
Roswell’s reward: a trip to Powder Springs to take on Region 4 champion Hillgrove (8-3).
"Everybody wanted to kick dirt on us after the Lowndes game [a season-opening blowout loss], but we get another week," Ford said. "We get to come back to work."