chris.depew@gaflnews.com



VALDOSTA -- Leading just 13-7 in the second half, No. 4 Lowndes High needed a spark to put away pesky underdog McIntosh-Peachtree City. And the Chiefs gave it to the home team -- three times.

A pair of fumbles and an interception in the third quarter propelled the Vikings (3-0) to 31 straight points and a 44-14 blowout win Friday night at Martin Stadium. The second-half explosion took much of the sting out of an anemic opening two quarters and an avalanche of penalties (16 for 136 yards).

"(The) first half, we just came out and we'd make a couple of good gains, then get crazy penalties (on something) we'd worked on in practice all week," said fullback Demetrius Henry. "The second half, we just came out more focused and played ball the way we were supposed to."

Anthony McCastle jump-started the Viking offense with a 55-yard interception return midway through the third quarter. Henry scored his second touchdown of the night from five yards out and added the two-point conversion to push the lead to 21-7.

Having already turned the ball over on a punt return, McIntosh (1-2) promptly coughed up the ball on the ensuing kickoff, allowing Chris Baker to recover at the 27. A Brandon Ponder pass bounced off the hands of Zach Parker to the fingertips of Cory Clemons for a 15-yard score. Curtis Smith's kick made it 28-7 and the rout was on.

"The first half we didn't come out ready to play, but the second half we just exploded," said left tackle Blake Bonner. "We just came together, didn't miss any assignments and blew them off the ball in the second half."

"The mistakes were frustrating," said head coach Randy McPherson. "I thought our kids came out kind of flat. The first half, they came out kind of lackadaisical. I'm not so sure we played 48 minutes of football tonight. But we won the game and won it big."

Even on cruise control, Lowndes was too much for the Chiefs to handle. The Vikings scored twice in a 1:46 span in the first half on a 1-yard Henry run and a 6-yard Freeman Stephens romp. Lowndes rang up 251 yards on the ground on 36 carries.

McIntosh pulled off a surprise by alternating quarterbacks Chip Jett and Taylor Lee on every play, including a 65-yard drive in the second quarter that narrowed the gap to 13-7, as Lee connected with Michael Condon on a 6-yard score.

Clemons added a 44-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, McCastle recorded a safety and Octavious Everrett scored from a yard away to round out the scoring for Lowndes. Sean Nerny caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Drew Webb for McIntosh's final score with five seconds to play.

Next week, Lowndes hosts former Region 1-AAAAA rival Ware County in one of the most anticipated games of the year at Martin Stadium. Former Lowndes offensive coordinator William Davis took his high-octane passing offense to Waycross in the offseason, and the Gators figure to be Lowndes' stiffest test to date.

"We have to go break the film down, just like any other team and try to come up with a game plan to get our kids better," said McPherson.



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