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Lambert, South Forsyth set for region championship game

We will carry a live stream of the Lambert-South Forsyth game tonight, beginning at kickoff.  Click HERE to go to the game video 

South Forsyth fell to Lambert 40-7 on Nov. 7, 2014. Even so, Friday’s game has implications well beyond revenge.

This time, the two teams will meet at War Eagle Stadium for the Region 6-AAAAAA championship. It’s not an official title game, but with Lambert a perfect 8-0 in region and South just behind at 7-1, the winner takes the title and the No. 1 seed heading into next week’s first round of the state playoffs.

Playoff scenarios aside, the right to a region title is cherished by both parties. Between the two schools exists just one first place finish—South won a share of the Region 7-AA title in 1997 under head coach Norris Vaughn. South head coach Jeff Arnette, who took over the program in 2010, won region titles with Oconee County in 2000 and 2001, but has yet to lead the War Eagles to the same pinnacle.

For Lambert’s Louis Daniel, Friday marks the opportunity to claim top honors in just his second year as a head coach. Daniel joined the Longhorns program in its inception back in 2009 as offensive coordinator, becoming the man-in-waiting after Sid Maxwell departed in 2013.

Both coaches have directed their attention away from their records, to no surprise.

“It’s hard to look at this from a personal level,” Arnette said. “It’s about what this means for our kids, our school and our community. To get a region championship in Class AAAAAA football, that’s what it’s all about.”

“Our team made this a goal in the offseason,” Daniel said. “As the season kind of unfolded with South doing so well and us stringing together wins, we thought this would be the outcome. But it feels good. Our kids are excited, students are making posters, the staff and teachers are all into it. We are looking forward to Friday.”

The playoff formula will be more forgiving of a Lambert loss than one of South. If the Longhorns fall, they will only drop to No. 2 in the region standings. If South loses, a West Forsyth victory over Johns Creek will create a 7-2 tie between the War Eagles and Wolverines—one West would win, forcing South into the No. 3 seed and a road game to start the playoffs.

Arnette is embracing the challenge.

“If you’re writing a book you couldn’t think up something more exciting,” Arnette said. “There is so much on the line, but the great thing about our kids is that they have great leadership. Our senior captains have done a great job of keeping everyone focused.”

Daniel is sure to have his home crowd behind him. South and Lambert’s campuses are just a few miles apart, with many students from opposing schools living along the dotted lines. He thinks Lambert’s crowd will be in full force to the point that South won’t have any type of home field advantage.

“We’re from the same town pretty much,” Daniel said. “I don’t think them being at home is going to affect us at all. I’ll tell you one thing—it’s going to be a packed house all the way around, and that’s what you want.”

After reaching the state playoffs last season and finishing 7-4, Daniel hopes a win on Friday could complete “the next step” for the program.

“Making the playoffs the last few years has meant a lot,” Daniel said. “But this is that next step. A region title is something you can point to. We’ve been waiting for this opportunity.”

Contrasting Styles

Two very different teams will face off in terms of style, but, fundamentally, Daniel doesn’t see it that way.

“South will be back in the shotgun, but as far as their approach is, it’s not that different at all really. They are honestly a very good running team, and I think we are too,” Daniel said.

South has lit up the scoreboard this year with a multi-faceted offense. Quarterback Davis Shanley has a reliable tight end target in Cameron Kline, dynamic receivers in Jalen Camp and Ronnie Chambliss, and a power running game with Sam Outlaw at tailback. That combination has produced balance—the ability to run or throw at will and keep defenses on their toes.

Despite the fact Lambert has made its rounds with a traditional power run game from the I-formation, Arnette sees Lambert in a different light as well.

“The thing about them is their ability to run so well actually makes their passing game so dangerous, because you’ve got to key on their run game,” Arnette said.

Lambert has been without Harrison Pomfret, Brian Wright and Ken Dicks—the top three running backs on the depth chart—for the last month. That has called for Will Kohlins and Dylan Shepherd, both fullbacks, to carry the load. They haven’t missed a beat. Kohlins, a sophomore, is coming off a 35-carry, 298-yard, three touchdown performance at Chattahoochee.

Last week the Longhorns ran 48 times on 53 plays.