VALDOSTA—Lowndes (13-0) edged Grayson (12-2) 28-20 in what turned into the closest game the Viking’s have had this season.
Lowndes closed the curtain on Grayson’s hopes of advancing to the 7A semifinals with a fourth quarter goal line stand.
The Rams worked their way down to the 1-yard line, poised to score and potentially tie the game.
The Concrete Curtain had other plans.
They stopped the Grayson ball carrier in the backfield for the game sealing tackle and celebrated their 13th win of the season.
All season the defensive coaching staff has preached that playing defense is non-conditional. Tonight it came to fruition.
“It goes back to the one (play) or 100 and we needed one,” defensive coordinator Byron Slack said after the game. “That’s the one they went and got. Tonight they showed me they believe in that. Whether it’s 100 plays that we have to stop them or just one. It came down to that one tonight and they came through.”
The Viking’s had to endure the most adversity that they’ve faced this season throughout the contest. The Viking’s were already down two running backs coming into the game, and had players battling injuries throughout the contest.
Not to mention uncharacteristic fumbles and a regression in their offensive attack.
But those factors wouldn’t limit Jacurri Brown.
On the first play of the game, Grayson brought a safety blitz. Brown tucked the ball and ripped a 42-yard run to get into the Ram’s territory.
That was the tone setter that the Viking’s needed without two of their top offensive players.
Brown put Lowndes on his back—quite literally in some cases—being the sole vessel for offensive possessions.
He worked his way to 158 yards and two touchdowns from 25 carries, on a night that the Viking’s only picked up 205 rushing yards.
“This stuff is magical,” Brown said after the game. “You can always talk but if you go do it, you do it … It just brings it to a higher level every week. I have to step it up every week. Put this team on my shoulder and just go with it.”
Brown is a sophomore but is clearly the player that Lowndes goes to when they need a spark. During the game he was showing his exhaustion in between plays but refused to give up on his team, fighting for extra yards with each carry. He has displayed his abilities since earning the starting job in the spring.
He has not only earned the respect of his teammates, but his coaches as well.
“Man he’s a winner,” head coach Randy McPherson said about the quarterback after the game. “He’s a real physical kid. He isn't scared of anything and the kids know that. They feed off of that.”
With Brown leaving his heart on the field, it was only right that the Concrete Curtain did the same.
In the second quarter, Grayson rumbled its way to the Lowndes 3-yard line.
A direct snap to the running back triggered what they thought would be a surefire touchdown to tie the game.
Instead, T.J. Quinn jarred the ball free and Josh Brown returned it 97 yards in the opposite direction for a Viking touchdown.
“When I picked it up the only thing I was thinking was don’t get caught,” Josh Brown said about the fumble recovery. “It’s a beautiful thing to be honest. You got my teammates on the sideline going crazy. I don’t know how many fans were here tonight but you can hear all of them going crazy. It was just a fun experience.”
The Lowndes defense kept Grayson in down and distance situations, forcing them to pass the ball. Grayson quarterback C.J. Dixon found success through the air, but could only get one touchdown for his efforts.
The Concrete Curtain stood tall when they were needed the most.
Thanks to reassured confidence, they’re heading into next week with a dangerous mindset.
“I don’t know what more can be said,” senior Devonn Lane said after the game. “I knew when I went down I couldn’t stay on the sidelines. I just bit my tongue, got back in there and played the whole game. We played better in the second half than we did in the first half. We came out here and got a win.”
Lowndes springs into the next round where they’ll face North Gwinnett. The Bulldogs bulldozed McEachern who was ranked as the second best team in the state.
North Gwinnett isn’t shy about their guns on offense. They’ll travel to Martin Stadium averaging 40.7 points per game and putting up scores of 51, 60, 32 in the opening three rounds of playoffs.
It’s going to be a test between one of the highest scoring offenses and the top defense in the classification.
“We’re going to do it the right way,” McPherson said about the preparation for North Gwinnett. “We’re going to come up with a game plan and give it our best shot.”