The Valdosta Daily Times
Lowndes and Norcross, two Georgia football powerhouses, met for the first time on Friday night in a AAAAAA quarterfinals game. The Blue Devils raced out to a quick 14-0 lead and cruised to a 28-7 victory over the Vikings.
Norcross looked like a defending champion on a mission to return to the AAAAAA finals, but the game began a lot closer than it would end.
The Blue Devils got the ball to start the game, but Vikings interior defensive lineman Zack Copeland made sure they wouldn't take a quick lead. The talented defender had two huge momentum killing plays to disrupt each of Norcross' first two possessions.
After a quick wide receiver screen picked up good yardage, Copeland stuffed A.J. Bush in the backfield for a loss of a yard, much to the delight of the Lowndes faithful who made the drive to support their team.
Bush couldn't connect with his intended receivers on second or third-and-long, forcing a punt on the Blue Devils first drive of the game.
Norcross' next drive looked similar to the first.
Copeland planted Bush on the backfield on first down and Bush missed his receivers on the next two plays to bring up another punting situation.
While Lowndes' defense got off to a quick start, the offense had a bit more trouble getting rolling against an extremely talented Norcross defense.
The Vikings got the ball with a chance to score the first points of the game after a Norcross punt and the drive had a very promising beginning. Brandon Roberts picked up eight yards on the ground on the first play and on the next handoff, Roberts burst through the line, shaking off multiple tackles en route to a big gain down to the Blue Devils' 19-yard line.
Unfortunately, an illegal procedure penalty on the Vikings brought the run back and two plays later Lowndes was forced to punt.
The Vikings were forced into another three-and-out on their second drive as well.
The first points of the game were finally scored on the Blue Devils' third possession of the game.
Brandon Roberts slipped and fell to the ground while covering Clinton Lynch, leaving Lynch wide open for a deep pass. Roberts was able to recover to push Lynch out of bounds at Lowndes' five-yard line.
Roberts' effort looked like it would be rewarded by the rest of the defense after a holding call negated a Norcross touchdown, but Bush would rollout to buy some time on 3rd and goal before hitting Marques Solomon for a 12-yard touchdown to give the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead with 50 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
Norcross would score again on their next drive. Myles Autry was blasted while attempting to field a punt and Lowndes was able to recover at the Blue Devils 15-yard line, but quarterback Austin Dixon would throw an interception to Jordan Noil on the first play.
Noil returned the interception to the Vikings 25. Norcross would convert on a 4th-and-10 and then a play later Boyd got into end zone from 11 yards out to put the Blue Devils up two scores.
Lowndes was not able to get back into scoring range in the first half before the teams headed to the locker rooms. The Vikings had been out gained 40 to 171 in the half while trailing for the first time this postseason.
Things didn't change much in the second half.
The Vikings got the ball to begin the second half and it looked as if the momentum might start to swing into Lowndes' favor a bit as Roberts returned the kick-off to the Blue Devils 49, but on the first play of the drive Dixon fumbled the snap and Norcross was able to get on top of the football.
After the turnover, the Blue Devils methodically drove down the field and into the red zone once again. Norcross went up 21-0 on a read-option; Bush kept the ball, made a move, and reached across the goal line while being dragged down.
Dixon fumbled another snap on Lowndes' next possession, his third turnover of the evening, and Bush competed a bomb 31 yards downfield for a touchdown to Maaseiah Francis to give the Blue Devils a commanding 28-0 lead with just 5:37 remaining in the third quarter.
If that was the nail in Lowndes' playoff run, they certainly didn't play like it; just a few minutes later Dixon completed a beauty of a pass to Malik Roberts on a wheel route for a 63-yard touchdown.
The pass may have been the best thrown from Dixon all season, 40 yards in the air and hitting Malik in stride as he ran by two Norcross defenders. With the extra point, the score became 28-7 and the score held there as the fourth quarter began.
Despite having the momentum finally in their side, the Vikings could not cut into the Blue Devils' deficit any more in the final quarter.
Dixon tossed his second interception of the game on a screen pass, Jaquan Frazier jumped the pass to set Norcross up with a first-and-ten from Lowndes' 40-yard line.
The Vikings would only get two more opportunities on offense as the Blue Devils milked the clock down and wrapped up the game by a score of 28-7.
Norcross won the turnover battle zero to five en route to a date with the Colquitt County Packers in a AAAAAA semifinal game next week.
With the loss, the Vikings wrap up another solid season with a 9-4 record and a third round playoff game.