Lambert’s boys delivered a familiar result under unusual circumstances.
The No. 2-ranked Longhorns battled through staggering winds and the absence of several key players to defeat West Forsyth 4-2 on Tuesday at The Horn and improve to 14-0 all-time against in-county rivals.
Lambert (6-0, 5-0 Region 6-AAAAAA) entered the week missing three players due to season-ending injuries. Midfielder Cooper Coughlin was also scratched from Tuesday’s game with a minor leg injury, and defender Sean Langley had to be pulled in the second half after suffering a muscle strain.
Weather conditions didn’t make things any easier for either squad, as wind gusts reached 40 mph at times Tuesday night.
"This region [schedule] of playing home and away 14 of our 18 matches is just absolutely ridiculous," Lambert head coach Chris Wilson said. "Tonight’s game should [have been] a non-region match where we might could rest more, but every game is a dogfight and that’s what we’re going to have to go through [the rest of the season].
"We got the win with a lot of younger guys on the field. The weather was just ridiculous tonight, [too], but both teams had to play in it. I commend West, they came after us and played well."
The Wolverines (3-4, 2-3) rallied in the second half but weren’t able to overcome the 3-0 lead Lambert built before halftime with the help of a pair of corner kicks.
Mitch Fandos sent a corner kick into the middle of the box in the sixth minute, drawing West goalkeeper Bryce Billington into a cluster of players to attempt the save. Lambert junior Zac Davis headed the ball toward the right side of the goal and there were no West players there to stop it from slowly bounding into the net.
"It was kind of anticlimactic," Wilson said. "I don’t think anybody expected it, all of a sudden it just happened."
Fandos sent another corner kick into the box in the 22nd minute, allowing Logan Willis to send a low shot into the net after the Wolverines failed to clear the ball. Wilson said that five of the Longhorns’ 14 goals this season have come off corner kicks.
"We work on corners and there are all kinds of different dynamics of how we can score off of [them]," Wilson said. "All it takes is a simple redirect. Everybody is going for where the ball currently is and suddenly it’s somewhere else. It’s deadly and that’s why you don’t want to give up too many corners."
Fandos tacked on Lambert’s third goal in the 33rd minute on a breakaway shot from 15 yards out to give the Longhorns a seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead, but West responded in the second half.
Niels Kroes caught the Longhorns by surprise with a 22-yard strike from the left side of the field less than four minutes into the second half.
Lambert responded in the 51st minute when Bobby Hopper delivered a well-executed cross to freshman Jalen Williams, who headed the ball into the net. Williams' goal proved key, as West added its second goal less than two minutes later.
Fabian Mata mimicked Kroes’ earlier shot with a sudden 31-yard strike that started on the left side of the field and slanted into the net, ending a 15-game streak in which the Longhorns had held opponents to fewer than two goals.
The Wolverines created three more solid scoring opportunities down the stretch, but couldn’t narrow the score any further.
"I think we got off the bus a little bit flat and were more concerned about some of the weather issues," West head coach Jason Bayush said. "We finally woke up [in the second half]. We realized that we could play with this team and I think they realize we can play with anyone, it’s just a matter of [having] the heart to do it and the confidence to do it."
Lambert will travel to Alpharetta on Friday, while West will host South in another county rivalry matchup. Both games are set for 7:55 p.m.