ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The Alpharetta Raiders are 17-1 in Region 6-AAAAAA over the past three seasons, but none of those 17 wins has been quite like last Friday’s 14-12 victory over Lambert.
The usually explosive Alpharetta offense was effectively contained by the Longhorns with the exception of two plays. One of those two plays resulted in a touchdown and the other led to a score, and that was just enough for the Raiders, thanks to another outstanding defensive performance by the Alpharetta defense.
The victory all but clinches the region title for the Raiders, who are 5-0 in league play and 6-2 overall. Lambert is 3-2 and 4-4.
Lambert was held to just six first downs and 105 yards total offense, with the Longhorns’ only touchdown coming on a 99-yard interception return. Lambert had almost 50 more yards on two interceptions (154) than on 48 plays from scrimmage.
“Our defense had a goal line stand and a blocked field goal, and that turned out to be instrumental,” Alpharetta coach Jason Dukes said.
Alpharetta was not the only team that turned in a stellar defensive effort. Lambert held the Raiders to just 17 yards rushing before the Raiders picked up two late first downs on the ground to finish with 47 yards.
The Raiders’ Austin King passed for 227 yards, but more than half that total came on the two big plays. The Longhorns picked off three passes, including the 99-yard return that turned a seemingly comfortable Alpharetta win into a near upset.
After three punts and an interception on their first four series, Andre Harton got behind the Lambert secondary for a 65-yard touchdown strike from King midway through the second quarter.
The Raiders made it 14-0 at the half, mostly due to a catch-and-run for 53 yards by Rustin Suter to the Lambert 11. After an 11-yard reception by Daniel Clements to the 2, it took the Raiders four plays to punch the ball into the end zone, with King scoring on a sneak with 17 seconds left in the half.
The Raiders’ goal line stand came early in the second quarter, with the Alpharetta defense stopping the Longhorns on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Lambert went three-and-out on four of five first-half possessions, picking up three first downs after a 55-yard interception return to the Alpharetta 40.
The Longhorns began consecutive series inside the Alpharetta 30 in the third quarter following an interception and a short punt. The Raiders deflected the first field goal attempt, with the Longhorns closing within 14-3 in the final minute of the third quarter.
A 65-yard Alpharetta drive reached the Lambert 20, but King was intercepted for the second time, with Jeremy Johnson taking it the length of the field to pull the Longhorns within 14-9.
A 39-yard completion on third-and-13 gave the Longhorns a first down at the Alpharetta 15, but the Raiders again held to force a field goal that trimmed the lead to two.
Running quarterback Elijah Burnette, who saw limited action in the game at running back, picked up a pair of late first downs to run four minutes off the clock, and the Raiders sealed their victory on an interception by Jay Youngblood.
Dukes said the Lambert defense “was the best we’ve seen. They had a good plan to play us and limited our production. I don’t want to say this was a wake-up call. We know we still have a lot to work on.”
Alpharetta plays Friday night at Centennial.