Dexter Copeland: Title talked about since last season
K’Hari Lane has had more dazzling games and sharper performances, but he returned home to Montezuma with a state championship and a state record nonetheless.
The Macon County quarterback threw for four touchdowns to break Hutson Mason’s mark of 54 touchdown passes in a season, and the Bulldogs’ defense was big in Macon County’s 35-0 win Saturday in the GHSA Class 1A public school championship game at the Georgia Dome.
Lane broke the record when he floated around the pocket and found Trey Brown for a 21-yarder with 4:04 left in the game. Macon County finished 12-2, while McIntosh County Academy finished 10-3. It is Macon County’s second state title, going with the one the Bulldogs claimed in 1996.
The Bulldogs took a 7-0 lead on Jared Daniels’ 13-yard touchdown catch from Lane in the first quarter. That drive was boosted by four MCA penalites, including two that gave Macon County first downs.
MCA blew a chance to tie it after two big plays covered 43 yards and got the Buccaneers to the 11. But quarterback Major Robinson never got the snap on first-and-goal at the 1, and Robtavious Manning recovered the fumble with 9:51 left in the half.
Macon County just missed a touchdown on a fourth-and-6 when a wide open Brown couldn’t get control of the pass in the end zone right before halftime. The Bulldogs had a 115-78 advantage in total offense at halftime. Pressured hard all day, Lane tied the touchdown mark with 20 seconds left in the third quarter when he hooked up with Brown for a 28-yard touchdown.
MCA’s third fumble of the day gave the Bulldogs the ball on the Buccaneers’ 32. Six plays later, Daniels went in from 19 yards out with 9:20 left. The Bulldogs added a touchdown pass from Lane to Brown with 1:25 left after the Buccaneers failed on fourth down at their own 33, Lane ending his senior season with 56 touchdown passes.
MCA was shut out for the first time since losing 42-0 to Benedictine on Oct. 30, 2015. It was Macon County’s third shutout of this season.
Five who mattered
Daniels: The 6-foot, 190-pounder was among the most impressive players on the field, finishing with 121 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown run and a touchdown catch.
Manning: The junior linebacker/end was a force, with six tackles, 1 1/2 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
Kentarius Felton: The undersized middle linebacker, who a few times struggled to get up from the turf after making a play, led the Bulldogs with 8 1/2 tackles, including one for loss, adding a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
Marquel Jackson: The tall linebacker had six solo tackles and three sacks for losses of 25 yards.
Lane: It was an efficient day for the record-setter, who completed 16-of-23 for 183 yards and four touchdowns, all while battling a defense that sacked him six times.
Too helpful: MCA had trouble all game with pre-snap penalties, handing Macon County nearly a few key first downs with such flags.
Huge performance: As impressive as the shutout was the fact that Macon County held MCA to 159 yards in total offense and 2.9 yards per play.
Too helpful, part II: MCA will rue the turnovers, two fumbles coming in the red zone and another near midfield. Eight of the Bucs’ 12 possession lasted four plays or fewer.
A nice sight: As Macon County celebrated and went through the trophy presentation, Fitzgerald players stood along the back line of the end zone waiting to start stretching. As the Bulldogs began to head toward the locker room, players and coaches from Macon County stopped to offer encouragement to Fitzgerald players and coaches, who broke ranks to congratulate the new champs. Fitzgerald beat Macon County 70-42 on Sept. 10.
Odd numbers: MCA was all over Lane, and it didn’t matter. The Bulldogs managed only three sacks but forced quarterback Major Robinson into a 9-for-20 day for 92 yards and an interception in the final minutes by Curt McDonald.
They said it
Lane on thinking about the touchdown record: “I’m thinking, ‘Let’s finish this thing and get that W. If the record comes, it just comes.’ The ring is the most important. … When I got 54, I said, ‘Let’s go get it.’ ”
Copeland on MCA’s two red-zone fumbles: “The first one, I didn’t see it. The second one was a game-changer. They were driving down the field, they had the momentum.”
Lane on if MCA’s defense was the most physical he has faced: “Maybe so. Them and Northside. They’re small, but they’re quick. They’re really good, man. Shout out to them.”
Copeland on the defense of coordinator Antwon Oliver: “He told me (Friday) night before we went to bed, he said, ‘Coach, they won’t score.’ That’s what happened.”
Lane on halftime adjustments: “Coach just told them, ‘Hey, O-Line, it starts with you, man. If y’all block them up, we’re going to get open.’ ”
Copeland on halftime adjustments: “They did some things that we hadn’t seen on film. Some stunts, twists and blitzes and that kind of thing. … We had to calm down. I think the lights kinda got to us early in the game. Once we got back where we needed to be, we started playing good football.”
Copeland on Lane’s record-breaking touchdown pass: “He made a check. I wish I could take the credit for that. He made a check, changed the play, saw the coverage. He made a great throw.”
Lane on the scouting report of MCA being attacking on defense: “That’s exactly what they were. They blitzed a lot, and then they’re going to get in your face and stuff like that. They didn’t really care about leaving guys open. They were going to come and stop you first.”
Copeland on the large crowd behind the Macon County bench: “Everybody’s here. I really was surprised. I didn’t get a chance to look into the stands until the end of the game. I kinda looked over, I said, ‘Oh my.’ There was a lot of people there.”
Lane on the last time he had only 58 yards passing in a half: “Man, my freshman year maybe. (First half) went kinda fast, faster than what you thought.”
Copeland on his team’s nerves and settling down: “Before the game, they were a little more calm than normal. I looked at my coaches, ‘I hope we’re OK,’ because they’re usually jumping around and laughing. I guess they were just ready to play. … We didn’t execute something, and we came to the sideline, and there was a little bit of arguing going on. My center, Christopher Leggett, he said, ‘Guys, come on now, we’re gonna be OK.’ And he started laughing. I said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s my crew.’ ”
GHSA Class 1A public school championship
Macon County 35, McIntosh County Academy 0
MC: Jared Daniels 13 pass from K'Hari Lane (Abisai Gutierrez kick)
MC: Brown 28 pass from Lane (Gutierrez kick)
MC: Daniels 19 run (Gutierrez kick)
MC: Brown 21 pass from Lane (Gutierrez kick)
MC: Brown 7 pass from Lane (Gutierrez kick)
Rushing: MCA: JP Palmer 13-60, Jonanthan Tason 7-27; Macon County: Daniels 11-121; Akeevious McClendon 11-86.
Passing: MCA: Major Robinson 9-20-1 92; Macon County: Lane 16-23-1 183.
Receiving: MCA: Dustin Anderson 3-51, Simon Cummings 2-33; Macon County: Brown 6-91, Keldric Thomas 5-76, McClendon 3-8.