SUGAR HILL -- Sprayberry lost 15-14 at Lanier on Friday in a cold and rainy defensive contest in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs Friday night.
A blocked extra point late in the game proved to be the only thing that could separate the Yellow Jackets (6-5) and Longhorns (10-1).
“A bit of a slow start,” Sprayberry coach Brett Vavra said. “It was tough to move the ball on their front. We missed some plays in the passing game, but we also made some big plays. We just left too many points on the board.”
After the blocked extra point following Damarion Owens’ late touchdown kept the Yellow Jackets from tying the game, Sprayberry got a final opportunity to possess the ball and go for the win.
On the second play of the drive, with 3:08 on the clock, a fumbled handoff turned the ball over to Lanier. Taj Barnes converted a long third down with a 15-yard run, and the Longhorns were able to run out the clock.
“I’m proud of them,” Vavra said. “I’m really proud of the way they played tonight and the progress they made all season. The things that we asked them to do, they completely bought into it, they trusted us, they trusted their teammates and that is where I think we made the biggest strides.”
The scoring started early as Lanier received the opening kick and struck quickly. On the second play from scrimmage, quarterback Andrew Blackford dumped a screen pass to Tyler Washington, who took the play 56 yards for a touchdown.
That was the only offense Lanier managed in the entire first half. The Longhorns had only two first downs against the Sprayberry defense and punted four times.
Lanier went into the half with only 70 yards of offense, with 56 on the scoring play.
“Defensively, it was an incredible effort,” Vavra said. “Our defense has just been getting better and better every week, and I thought they played well tonight, too.”
Sprayberry started to creep back into the game through its kicker. Allpay Demir ended the Yellow Jackets' first drive with a 29-yard field goal. The big play on the drive was a 29 yard rush by Owens.
Owens was once again the focal point of Sprayberry’s offense. He carried 20 times in the first half alone for 93 yards, and he finished the game with 33 carries for 177 yards and a touchdown.
Demir added a 25-yard field goal late in the second quarter, and the Yellow Jackets went to the locker room trailing by one.
A pair of mistakes gifted Lanier eight points out of the break. After three straight pass attempts failed, a bad snap led to the punter, Demir, kicking the loose football out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
On the ensuing drive, Sprayberry’s defense dropped an interception in the end zone, and the Longhorns capitalized on their next play, scoring a 10-yard touchdown to make the score 15-6.
A 71-yard completion from Kyle Brown to Deji Thomas on the second-to-last play of the third quarter set Sprayberry up on the Lanier 16-yard line. Demir missed a 30-yard field goal to end the drive.
A holding penalty pinned Lanier deep and, after a three-and-out, Sprayberry got a safety of its own on another bad snap on a punt before Owens brought the score to within one point with his touchdown run.
“I thought our kids played really hard,” Vavra said. “I thought they battled. I thought we were every bit as good as (Lanier), and credit to them, they’re a good football team, but I believe we’ve got a very good football team. We just came up short.”
Lanier moved on to play at Richmond Hill in the second round.