ATLANTA -- Third-down conversions lead to long drives.
They also lead to a nice rhythm for an offense and a tired and frustrated defense.
All that added up to be just too much for Lamar County to overcome Saturday against Lovett in the GHSA Class AA championship game at the Georgia Dome.
Lovett dominated the yardage and time of possession battles because it was so strong on third downs, converting 9-of-16, on its way to a 14-7 win. It was the Lions first state title since 1970.
Lamar County is still searching for its first after finishing 14-1 with the programs first title game appearance.
We just didnt make the plays when we needed to make them, senior Qua Searcy said. Our defense played hard, but we just didnt get it done. We just needed to make a couple of more plays.
That was especially true on third down, including what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. Facing third-and-8 from the Lamar County 41, the Lions handed the ball to Vanderbilt commitment Grant Haley, and he went up the middle and then down the Lovett sideline for a 41-yard touchdown. That came with 8:09 left in the third quarter, and there was still plenty of the game to be played. But that play highlighted the Trojans inability to get off the field on third down in key spots in the contest.
And that was their undoing.
Lovetts game plan worked to perfection, as it kept Lamar Countys talented trio of Lance and Lawrence Austin and Searcy off the field for most of the afternoon.
Lovett finished with a 31:00-17:00 edge in time of possession and gradually wore down the Trojans. Lamar County finished with just eight possessions and had only one long drive -- its touchdown march in the second quarter that ended on a Quentin Frazer 11-yard touchdown run.
The Trojans just couldnt get much going or keep it going when they did, as they finished just 1-of-6 on their third-down tries.
With the way the Lions were pounding the ball at the Trojans defense, that just wasnt good enough to push the Trojans to the tying score. That led to a long, draining afternoon, especially in the second half.
While the Lions celebrated their championship, the frustration and disappointment were easy to see on the faces of the Trojans players. Searcy fought back tears as he talked about the game and his teams season. It was a tough afternoon, for sure, but that doesnt take away from what the Trojans accomplished this season.
Lamar County has become one of the elite programs in the state in the smaller classifications, winning 38 games the past three seasons and reaching the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals during that time.
Those few plays Searcy spoke of ended up being the difference between a championship and the frustration of a second-place finish.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org