The Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA — A celebration of another Lowndes Vikings’ blowout win over an Atlanta-area team was brought to a grinding halt on Friday night.
The South Gwinnett Comets stormed back from a 28-0 fourth-quarter deficit with 20 straight points, but a key fumble recovery by Chris Scurry and an ensuing 69-yard touchdown run by Troy Braswell helped lift the Vikings to a nail-biting 34-26 victory in their season opener.
“We played three quarters tonight,” Vikings head coach Randy McPherson said.
The Vikings scored two touchdowns in the second quarter and two more in the third to take a commanding 28-0 lead on the Comets. But a series of uncharacteristic miscues by Lowndes opened the door for a comeback.
After being held to just 69 yards in the first half, the Comets’ offense came to life on a drive late in the third quarter and into the fourth. Quarterback Kent Rollins led a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ended when he ran up the middle untouched on a fourth-and-13 from 16 yards out to make it 28-6.
Lowndes went three-and-out on its next possession, then South Gwinnett blocked a punt and returned it to the Vikings’ 4. Aaron Wimberly scored on the next play to cut the deficit to 28-12 with 9:35 to play.
The Vikings finally appeared to have the game put away, forcing a punt midway through the fourth quarter. But the Comets faked the punt, and Wimberly pitched the ball to Trevon Walker, who took it 63 yards for a touchdown. Rollins completed the two-point conversion to make it 28-20 with 5:19 left to play.
South Gwinnett had put three touchdowns on the scoreboard in just over five minutes.
Needing a long drive to ice the game, the Lowndes offense couldn’t come up with one. Cole Parker and Tyler Hunter failed to connect on a third down pass in one-on-one coverage. Jed Solomon’s punt only traveled six yards, and the Comets took over at the Vikings’ 36 trailing by just eight.
That’s when Scurry and Braswell decided they’d had enough.
Rollins took a direct snap up the middle, was hit and fumbled the ball. Scurry pounced on it to give the Vikings possession, and Braswell took the next snap around the corner and down the sidelines for a 69-yard touchdown.
“I was cramping, but I saw they were coming back,” Braswell said. “I had to be a leader and show by my actions. It was nerve-racking. When they fumbled and we got the ball back, I knew I had to do something.”
Lowndes led 34-20 and the game was in hand, but South Gwinnett got one more shot in, scoring a touchdown as time expired, when Rollins hit Darius Jones-Craven on a deflected pass.
As the Vikings walked off the field, players were visibly upset, walking off the field looking at the ground and shaking their heads. Many looked physically exhausted.
“Well, we won the game,” McPherson said with a laugh. “We’re proud for the win. Boy, you can’t take anything from South Gwinnett. They’ve got a good team. Everyone knows they did. We didn’t finish the game. We just slowed down.”
For three quarters, it looked like the same Lowndes team that usually wreaks havoc on Gwinnett County schools. The Vikings came in having won nine of their last 11 against Gwinnett County schools, and it looked like another easy victory was on the way.
Parker hit Braswell for a touchdown on a 30-yard seam pass in the second quarter, and after a 44-yard catch-and-run by Tyler Hunter, James Mathis bullied his way into the end zone to put Lowndes up 13-0.
Sam Duncan broke several tackles and rumbled for a 24-yard touchdown in the third to make it 21-0, and Braswell broke off a 67-yard touchdown run later in the quarter.
The rout was on. Until it wasn’t.
“We have to go back, and we have to get better,” McPherson said. “But I’ll tell you what, we won the game.”
Braswell finished with 188 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 12 carries. He also caught two passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Duncan carried the ball nine times for 70 yards and a touchdown. Parker was 6 of 14 for 135 yards and a touchdown.
The Vikings rushed for 293 yards, and totaled 428 yards.
Scurry registered 10 tackles and a sack to go along with his fumble recovery.
For the Comets, Rollins rebounded from a terrible start to complete 14 of 32 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.