LFO holds the hill War­riors end Ring­gold dom­i­nance with 28-23 vic­tory

Walker County Messenger - - Sports - By David Jenk­ins

Grown men were danc­ing on the turf of Tommy Cash Sta­dium Friday night, scarcely be­liev­ing what they’d just seen.

But LFO’s Zach Vaughn was con­tent to walk, al­beit with head held high, among the crim­son­clad cel­e­brants, ac­cept­ing hugs and con­grat­u­la­tions for be­ing the guid­ing hand of the big­gest up­set North Ge­or­gia has seen in quite some time. End­ing a 12-game los­ing streak to their cross­county (and re­gion) ri­vals, the Ring­gold Tigers, the War­riors rode a pair of fourthquar­ter touch­down runs by Vaughn to claim a 28-23 vic­tory.

The Tigers had won the pre­vi­ous four meet­ings by a com­bined score of 215-39.

The War­riors (33, 1-0) dom­i­nated the first half against a flum­moxed Ring­gold de­fense, but fell be­hind as tal­ented Tigers quar­ter­back Cole Ki­bler en­gi­neered a pair of third-quar­ter touch­down drives. But on a night when War­riors played turnover-free foot­ball, they cap­i­tal­ized on a pair of fourth quar­ter turnovers by the Tigers (3-3. 0-1) to score the win.

Vaughn threw only seven passes on the night (com­plet­ing five for a mod­est 48 yards), but he car­ried the foot­ball 30 times, in­clud­ing 19 in the sec­ond half, fin­ish­ing with 116 yards rush­ing.

“We were so con­fi­dent coming into this game, as con­fi­dent as we were all sea­son,” the se­nior sig­nal­called said. “This was ab­so­lutely the best game I’ve ever seen our of­fen­sive line play. It was lights out.”

Vaughn and his work­horse tail­back, ju­nior Nathan Wil­liams, lugged the foot­ball 58 times be­tween them, Wil­liams gain­ing 146 of his 164 yards in the first half. He was fed the foot­ball 22 times in the first two pe­ri­ods, and re­warded Coach Bo Campbell’s con­fi­dence in him by bulling over for touch­downs of 6 and 8 yards.

Wil­liams’ first touch­down came at the end of a game-open­ing 17-play drive, with all but one of them a rush­ing play. That drive chewed up over 7:30 off the clock saw Wil­liams carry the foot­ball 11 times in all, in­clud­ing the first six plays.

It was a game plan Campbell – in his third year at the War­riors’ helm – had supreme con­fi­dence in.

“I have a lot of faith in these guys,” a drenched Campbell said af­ter­wards. “I told them ini­tially that this would be a pro­cess, and they be­lieved to­tally in the pro­cess. I knew what our guys were ca­pa­ble of, and I knew we were ca­pa­ble of this. But we’ve been hurt­ing our­selves. Tonight we fi­nally played a com­plete game.”

The War­riors’ of­fen­sive line, con­sist­ing of tested vet­er­ans Nick Culpep­per, Johnathan Cutcher, Tyler Simp­son, Nick Clark and sopho­more Noah Haney, cleared the way for the War­riors to chew up 278 yards on the ground and rack up 22 first downs against a Tiger de­fense that held Her­itage to 13 points and was coming off of wins against re­gion toughies Adairsville and Sono­rav­ille.

“Coming in, we knew if we con­trolled the foot­ball well, we’d stand a pretty good chance to win the ball­game, be­cause we’ve been play­ing pretty good de­fense,” Campbell said.

Campbell, per­haps sur­pris­ingly, had high praise for his pass de­fend­ers, even though they were flagged for four pass in­ter­fer­ence calls in the game.

“We told the guys be­fore the game we wanted them to play ag­gres­sively,” he ex­plained. “Our de­fen­sive backs played an un­be­liev­able game on their wide re­ceivers. Yeah, we got a cou­ple of pass in­ter­fer­ence penal­ties, but they were on close plays. But I didn’t want the kids to back down and play timid.”

Af­ter swap­ping punts, LFO was able to stage an­other ex­tended drive, the big play coming on a 33-yard Wil­liams burst ahead of his own 6-yard TD run.

But there was no panic on the Ring­gold side­line, as they set­tled for a 23-yard Gar­rett Davis field goal late in the first half af­ter driv­ing and stalling on the 6. A 44-yard Hail Mary pass to Dy­lan Wright set up the score, but Wright was one of two of Ki­bler’s tar­gets to go down Friday. The other, tight end Drake Starks, has po­ten­tially the more se­ri­ous leg in­jury of the two.

But Ki­bler had sopho­more Pete Brower all night long. Af­ter catch­ing three shorter throws for first downs, he pulled in the first of two scor­ing passes from Ki­bler on a 7-yard slant pat­tern that gave Ring­gold the lead for the first time, 17-14.

Ring­gold’s first touch­down came early

in the third quar­ter when a gimpy Ty Jones some­how out­legged the de­fense on a quick­hit­ting 42-yard run. Unof­fi­cially, he was able to sus­tain his streak of 100-yard games by pick­ing up 101 on 10 car­ries.

But the War­riors had an an­swer pre­pared once Ring­gold took the lead. On an ugly drive marred by ma­jor penal­ties on both sides, Vaughn took it the fi­nal 28 yards on three plays to re­take the lead on the first play of the fourth quar­ter.

Four plays later, the War­riors seized the first turnover of the night on a con­tro­ver­sial fum­ble call on Ki­bler, who’d ap­par­ently be­gan his throw­ing mo­tion. That left a short field for Vaughn and his of­fense, which pa­tiently ran the ball eight straight times lead­ing to Vaughn’s sec­ond touch­down of the pe­riod.

Down two scores, the Tigers drove quickly down the field with plenty of time left, but a poor de­ci­sion at the goal line, throw­ing into dou­ble cov­er­age, saw LFO’s Chan­dler Bell make an ac­ro­batic in­ter­cep­tion and 22-yard re­turn. How­ever, they were un­able to kill the clock, giv­ing it back to Ring­gold with 2:30 left with the Tigers need­ing a mir­a­cle or two. They got one. Pinned near his own goal line, Ki­bler let loose a des­per­a­tion heave to Brower. The sopho­more pulled in it, shook a tack­ler and out­ran three War­riors for an 83-yard pass and catch with just 1:42 left in the game. Brower would fin­ish the night with a ca­reer-high seven re­cep­tions for 155 yards.

Ring­gold went for two to make a three­p­oint mar­gin but failed. The sub­se­quent on­sides kick was re­cov­ered by Jack­son Her­rod and the clock was fi­nally taken down to ze­roes. The on-field party be­gan mo­ments later.

For Ring­gold coach Robert Akins, his firstever loss to the War­riors was a bit­ter pill to swal­low.

‘We were so undis­ci­plined tonight,” Akins said. “Of course, (LFO) had a great game plan and they just took it to us, bested us fair and square. They wanted more than we did. My hat’s off to them.”

As crush­ing as the loss was to Akins, it was big for Campbell.

“This might be the best one ever,” he ad­mit­ted. “The way the com­mu­nity has sup­ported us, it’s a big win for all of us. And it def­i­nitely makes it more of a ri­valry when both teams can win.”

Vaughn gained 116 yards on 30 car­ries, trail­ing only work­horse Wil­liams, who gained 154.

LFO will look to make it two wins in a row as they head to Var­nell this Friday for a sub­re­gion game against Coahulla Creek. Mean­while, Ring­gold will look to re­group at home as Mur­ray County comes to Don Pat­ter­son Field for an­other sub­re­gion con­test.

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