ONLINE EXTRA: Click here for highlights from the Lakeside vs. Josey football game.
By the end of the night Friday, there was no speculation as to who owned the Region 3-AAAA title, only smoke from the celebratory fireworks.
The pyrotechnic display came after Lakeside's 43-0 victory over Josey. Lakeside (9-1, 8-1) finished one game clear of the other eight teams in the region. It also finished with the most victories in school history and will open the playoffs at home Friday against old region rival Statesboro.
Lakeside will enter the state playoffs as the top seed out of its region for the first time in the school's 21 years of football.
"It's been awhile since we've been in this position, and they deserved something special," coach Jody Grooms said of the fireworks display. "I told a lot of people these kids were here when I got here, and we watched them grow. We wanted to do something special for them."
Against Josey, Lakeside surrendered just four first downs in recording its sixth shutout of the season. Sophomore Mark Weidenaar threw, caught and ran for touchdowns, highlighting a performance that included five plays of at least 20 yards.
Ben Brooks (118 yards receiving) caught a 59-yard pass from Weidenaar on the second play, which set up the first of three first-quarter rushing touchdowns.
"That got all our momentum going," Grooms said.
Weidenaar, Chris Hartfield, Ricky McMurtrey and Zack Banks ran for Lakeside touchdowns. Two quarterbacks combined to throw for 223 yards, and each of their 10 completions went for at least 11 yards.
Josey ended its season at 1-9, with a region win over Butler. Seven of those defeats came by at least 25 points.
Josey's threat of pulling an upset against Lakeside vanished when it gave up rushing touchdowns on its first three defensive possessions. Josey didn't earn a first down until 7:34 remained in the second quarter.
"If they had taken us real lightly and we played one of our better games, we could have had a better chance of playing with them. We made too many mistakes early," first-year Josey coach John Noah said. "They're not blessed with maybe some of the talent other people in the region have, but they have unbelievable discipline."
Lakeside players gathered to watch the fireworks explode in the sky, and supporters purchased region champion T-shirts on their way out of the gate.
Lakeside is in the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
"We believed from the first day until tonight good things would happen," Grooms said. "We got good kids in the program and undying support in the community. We knew it was going to come. Sometimes it takes longer than other times."
The Augusta Chronicle staff writer Matt Middleton contributed to this report.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.