ATLANTA -- West Laurens went toe-to-toe with St. Pius X for three-and-a-half quarters, but a pair of Golden Lions touchdowns in the final three minutes put the Raiders’ storybook season to rest.
Ransom Klinger scored on a 3-yard run with 2:36 to play, and Dalton Wilson plowed his way in from 5 yards out a minute later to lead St. Pius to a 31-13 win Friday night in the GHSA Class AAAA quarterfinals at George B. Maloof Stadium.
“The final score doesn’t indicate how hardfought of a ballgame this was,” West Laurens head coach Stacey Nobles said. “Our defense fought their eyes out against a great offense; we moved the ball well at times, but we just didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”
St. Pius opened the scoring with a quick touchdown on their opening possession. After the Golden Lions ran a series of dives and keepers in the option game on the first five plays, slotback Joey Connors got the edge on the sixth and raced 44 yards to put St. Pius X up 7-0.
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West Laurens knotted the game 7 with a quick strike of its own. Wide receiver Justin Smith drew a pass interference that moved the ball near midfield. Darius Bradford ran for 9 and 20 yards on the next two plays, and then quarterback Garrel Quainton connected with Smith for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 2:39 left in the first quarter.
A 30-yard field goal put St. Pius up 10-7, and the Golden Lions took a 17-7 lead just before halftime when quarterback Reed Egan found Cameron Fannon for a 33-yard score.
Bradford’s 80-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds to play in the third quarter cut the Golden Lions’ lead to 17-13. Bradford led all runners with 153 yards on 14 carries.
The Raiders’ defense followed with a quick three-and-out to open the fourth quarter, but St. Pius punter Michael Matthews boomed a 58 yard punt inside the 5 yard line -- forcing the Raiders to go 96 yards to the end zone.
West Laurens couldn’t muster a first down on the drive and had to punt -- setting up Klinger’s 3 yard score that all but sealed the game.
For West Laurens the loss ends once of the top seasons in the program’s 43-year history. Their nine-win season was the program’s first since 1994 and their state quarterfinal appearance was the first since that same year.
“We plan on being back here,” Nobles said. “I’m proud as heck of these kids; they’ve come a million miles from being a 3-7 team a year ago to region champions this year. But I know they aren’t satisfied either, this loss will be motivation all off season and we look forward to building on these accomplishments next year.”