Valdosta Daily Times

October 19, 2013

Lowndes grinds Coffee

Derrick Davis
The Valdosta Daily Times

DOUGLAS — Lowndes is building momentum at the right time, following a tough fought 35-10 victory over the Coffee County Trojans; the Vikings have won three straight games (all region) on their march towards the playoffs.

Coming into the game, it was hard to predict exactly how this game would play out due to a number of factors.

Coffee's 0-3 region record was a bit deceiving considering all three of the losses came in the final minutes, and even seconds, of the game; the Trojans have been able to hang with everyone they've faced this year for a full four quarters.

Lowndes entered this contest coming off of an emotional 3-0 victory over Valdosta in the Winnersville Classic which could have left the Vikings a bit flat.

What actually transpired was what everyone in the stands anticipated – a great ball game.

The Vikings squashed any talk of a Winnersville letdown on their first offensive play of the game after their defense forced a Trojan three-and-out.

The offensive line, which was key all night, provided Austin Dixon with all kinds of time off of play action as Brandon Roberts ran a wheel route down the sideline. Dixon delivered a perfect pass to Roberts, who made a move and outran the defense 71 yards for the first points of the game.

On the ensuing kick-off, the Coffee returner muffed a short, high kick that Lowndes was able to recover, at which point it was easy to think the rout would be on, but the Trojans' defense stiffened, holding the Vikings to a 46-yard field goal attempt which sailed wide left.

Lowndes would continue to move the ball well throughout the first half, but while Coffee's defense would bend, they refused to break, keeping the Vikings to seven points in the first half.

Coming into the game, Coffee knew they would have to rely on their passing attack to have any success against a stout Vikings defensive line. The Trojans' offense began clicking after picking up just one first down on the first three drives of the game by getting quarterback Tyree Paulk into a rhythm with short passes, one of which Ayantae McKever took 53 yards to tie the game at 7 apiece.

The Trojans took the lead on a 33-yard field goal on the next drive as they were once again able to complete short passes to keep Paulk's jersey clean from Lowndes' relentless pass rush and to keep the Vikings off-balance.

Lowndes avoided a complete disaster at the end of the half when they fumbled the ball inside their own 20 with under a minute to go in the half, but Roberts was able to pick off a pass in the end zone to keep the score 10-7.

But with the way the Vikings came out of the locker room in the second half, it almost didn't matter what the score was after two quarters.

The teams traded turnovers in each of their first possessions of the second half after a Dixon fumble on a hand-off and an Eric Hart interception.

Four plays later, Nathan Brantley broke a 33-yard touchdown run right up the middle of the Trojans defense that they had been pounding throughout the first half to give Lowndes the 14-10 lead.

"I told them I felt like we could move the ball on them and that we should have had more points," said Vikings head coach Randy McPherson. "Just keep plugging, keep plugging."

With Coffee driving back down the field to potentially take back the lead, Hart jumped in front of another pass for his second interception of the game.

This time Hart took the ball 74 yards the other way for his third pick-6 the year.

"It was fun," said Hart of his interception. "This was three weeks in a row trying to make big plays for my team. When it gets tough you've got to step it up."

Hart's touchdown sparked 28 unanswered points for the Vikings in the second half with major contributions coming from both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the outburst can be attributed to a very aggressive, physical offensive line. The Vikings were seemingly able to run the ball at will in the second half against a worn-down Trojans' front.

Dyshon Sims stood out in particular with seven knock-down blocks on the night.

"This was a good opponent and it feels good to get seven [knock-downs]," said Sims. "I've never had that many before in a game, especially in a region game; it feels real good."

Sims and company upfront led the Vikings to 211 second half yards on just 29 plays, all of which came on the ground.

Arvin Berry's 49-yard touchdown run, again up the gut of a worn-out Trojan defense, sealed the game for the Vikings on their way to a big 35-10 road victory.

With the win, Lowndes moves to 6-2 on the season, and more importantly 3-1 in the region which assures them a spot in the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year.

The Vikings will be back in action next Friday at Martin Stadium when they host the Tift County Blue Devils.