VALDOSTA – Colquitt County High’s Packers had fortunate moments when it came to loose footballs on Lowndes High’s Joe Wilson Field.
Then, a muffed punt return by the Packers gave the Lowndes High Vikings possession on the Packer 17-yard-line late in the third quarter.
Viking sophomore quarterback Jacurri Brown, after what appeared to be some moments of uncertainty on what to do running the show in a tightly contested affair, impressed in front of thousands.
Brown rushed for 106 yards and scored two touchdowns, one of 14 yards following that crucial Colquitt special teams turnover. With that, No. 1 Lowndes held off the No. 3 rivals from Moultrie 28-17.
So Lowndes wins No. 1 in Region 1-7A, finishes the regular season 10-0 and sends Colquitt County into the playoffs – with a guaranteed home first round playoff game in two weeks – at 8-2.
While coaches often speak of the three phases of football – offense, defense, special teams – those can all be broken down into even more phases. That one phase of special teams, the punting/punt return game, spelled doom for the Packers’ bid to win the region. First-half punts spotted Lowndes on their own 48- and 46-yard-lines in the first half. A second-half kick was marked on the Viking 47.
Also in the first half, Colquitt fumbled a punt return for the first time only to get it back.
As for the physical nature of play with two of the top 15 teams in the country competing, officials assessed four personal fouls, three on the Vikings. That included a targeting call on receiver Tyler Walker to start the final quarter.
Quarterback Jaycee Harden, who earned a lot of respect for his toughness taking four sacks plus a roughing the passer call, was 19-of-31 for 231 passing yards and one touchdown. Lemeke Brockington caught six passes for 80 yards. Daijun Edwards scored the other Packer touchdown running the ball, and he netted 60 yards on 17 totes.
The battle of very even football teams, the tops in Region 1-7A and Class 7A altogether, was even 14-14 through one half of play at “Sonny” Martin Stadium.
The Packers struck first after safety Nyquann Washington intercepted Brown on Colquitt’s 26. It was Washington’s fourth pick of the season.
Following an over-the-shoulder grab of 44 yards by Brockington on the 10, Walker ran a nine-yard slant on third down to score at 7:23 of the first quarter. It was Harden’s 33rd touchdown pass of 2019.
But three plays later, Lowndes’ major touchdown maker, Gary Osby, scored for the 15th time running the ball. He burst through a hole from 33 yards out at 6:07.
This was set up by Tylar Belcher’s 56-yard kick-off return.
Brown and the Vikings hit the Packer defense with jet sweeps and outside passes, and still playing in the first quarter took their first lead 14-7 in a 52-yard drive. Ghetti Brown touched the ball three times for 36 yards, and Jacurri Brown scored on a 5-yard keeper at 2:47.
Colquitt County answered with a 90-yard game-tying drive in nine plays. Harden found Montavious Ponder – who maintained possession despite an immediate pop – over the middle for 43 yards into Viking territory. To start the second quarter, Edwards patiently looked for a hole to his left and reached the Lowndes 21.
Edwards, in four plays, gained 25 yards, including a 1-yard ‘wild hawg’ touchdown run at 10:25 until halftime.
Before the break, Harden was sacked by Jalon Baker and Leon Williams. Brown, however, was finding problems as well when Antonio Spradley stopped the outside pass at the line and Ty French and LaQavion Haynes made him pay for some indecisiveness. Brown threw four straight incompletions to end the half (8-for-15, 65 yards), and it would be the Packers’ offense on the field first to start the second.
Harden had one more amazing completion, this to Dijmon Wheeler in his basket, for 42 yards in the third quarter’s opening series. Colquitt was at the Lowndes 26 when Harden took the hit on a pass attempt making it 4th-and-8. The senior continued to play, and his team had 17-14 lead on Jason Gallardo’s 41-yard field goal.
Colquitt only had four more first downs the rest of the game, but seemed to have things in check defensively behind Nathan Bell and Gamal Wallace up front.
The three-point lead stood until Brown, after two series worth of uncertainty, settled down and pulled off some amazing moves. With about five minutes to go in the third, he shook one tackler in the box, got the perimeter block and gained 64 yards to the Packer 2.
Osby scored for the second time (16th overall) at 4:45, and Lowndes was ahead for good 21-17.
At 1:07, the Packers dropped the fateful punt return deep in their own ground. Brown’s ensuing TD run, with 29 seconds on the clock, featured one of the best spin moves one would see.
Each team had the football once in the fourth quarter. While the Vikings were guilty of 30 penalty yards, the Packers gave it all back and then some from their own fouls and the sack by Osby and Thomas Davis. It wasn’t a running clock, but that’s what Lowndes turned it into ending the game with 10 running plays, four first downs and 47 yards.
That gave them 137 rushing yards in the second half, 222 for the night.