It didn’t come easy, but the Augusta Christian Lions are headed back to the South Carolina Independent School Class AAA state championship football game.
The Lions (12-0) overcame a sluggish first half offensively before taking control in the second half Friday night, going on to a 39-26 win over the Orangeburg Prep Indians.
The Lions will face six-time consecutive SCISA champion Hammond at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Benedict College’s Charlie W. Johnson Stadium. The Lions last played in the SCISA championship game in 2007, losing to Hammond 17-14.
The Lions faced Hammond in the eighth week of the season, winning 29-28 on a last-minute two-point conversion.
“One of our goals is to play in the last game of the year,” said Lions’ fourth-year head coach Keith Walton. “Before you can say you can win state, you have to get to state first.”
With the Indians (8-5) limiting the passing game Friday night, the Lions took control with their rushing attack in the second half. The team amassed 341 total rushing yards, all accounted for by the trio of quarterback Tyler Roberson, fullback Sean Sweeting and running back Thomas Banks. Sweeting led the Lions with 134 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
Roberson rushed 16 times for 130 yards and three touchdowns while Banks added 77 yards and a touchdown. Roberson also threw for a score, connecting with receiver Nick Fortenberry for 28 yards.
The Lions eclipsed the 10 rushing attempts in the first half with the opening drive in the third quarter. The team ran 14 times on its 90-yard, 16-play drive that took more than eight minutes off the clock. The drive was capped by Roberson’s four-yard touchdown scramble on fourth-and-goal.
“We came back in at half and said we’re going to get back to the old grind and run it down their throat and had an eight-minute drive right off the bat,” said Sweeting.
The touchdown gave the Lions a 19-12 lead and set the tone for the rest of the half, scoring on all four possessions before running out the game’s final seconds.
Defensively, the Lions sacked Indians quarterback Marion McCurry eight times, six in the first half, and picked off a pass. Terin Quarles led the attack with nine solo tackles and four sacks.
Georgia High School Association football ended for all but one local team Friday.
Despite ending the season with a 40-19 loss to Warner Robins, Lakeside advanced to the GHSA Class AAAAA State Football playoffs as the No. 4 seed in Region 2. The Panthers (5-5, 4-3 region) open play Friday night at 7:30 p.m. against Region 3’s No. 1 team, Ware County (9-1).
After starting the season with three consecutive losses, the Grovetown Warriors could have forced a three-way tie for the last two Region 2 playoff spots with a win in the final week. The Warriors (3-7, 3-4) traveled to Jones County but lost 48-37.
The Evans Knights faced Class AAAAA’s No. 1 team Friday and could not pull off the upset, losing to Northside Warner Robins, 45-0. The Knights finish the season with a 3-7, 1-6 record.
After beginning the 2012 season with a win, it took until the last game for the Greenbrier Wolfpack to get its next one. The Wolfpack finished 2-8 after its 33-14 win over Houston County.
In Region 3-AA play, the Harlem Bulldogs’ season came to an end with a 47-6 loss against Laney. The Bulldogs finished the season 2-8.