LaFayette Ramblers

Unless you were at the game in person, you probably wouldn't believe it.

And for the fans who were actually there in person, sitting on both sides of Jack King Stadium, they still probably don't believe it.

Trailing 26-0 at halftime, and after being outgained in total yards by a margin of 321-3 in the opening 24 minutes, the Christian Heritage Lions found a way to score 35 unanswered points in the second half and move to 3-0 with the most improbable of 35-26 victories over previously-unbeaten LaFayette.

The Ramblers were attempting to go 4-0 for the first time since 1991 and through two quarters they seemed all but a lock to do it.

Vyshonn Daniel completed 15-of-16 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns in the first half and a stifling Rambler defense held the visitors from Dalton to minus-20 yards on the ground as the home team completely dominated the first half of play.

LaFayette had two fumbles inside the Christian Heritage 20-yard line on their first two possessions, but kept at it and it paid off with four first-half scores.

Daniel connected with Austin Rogers on a 21-yard scoring strike with 2:53 left in the first quarter before finding Alan Hu on a 40-yard post pattern on the final play of the first quarter.

LaFayette would put together an 81-yard drive in the second quarter, which was capped by a 1-yard plunge by Hu. Then in the final minute of the half, Austin Rodgers picked off a Matthew Neff pass near midfield and returned it to the 9-yard line where Daniel found Andrew Pendergrass in the back of the endzone for the touchdown. Even with a missed extra point and another PAT blocked, LaFayette enjoyed a seemingly comfortable 26-0 advantage at the break.

But all of that would change after halftime.

Neff begin to find some space in the LaFayette defense after the break and started using the short game to perfection. After dropping a sure touchdown, Zach Gentry hauled in a 38-yard pass across the middle to cut the lead to 26-7 with 8:01 left in the third quarter.

After forcing a LaFayette punt, Neff hit Evan Lester on a beautifully set-up screen pass for 38 yards and then picked up 12 yards with his legs before hitting Gentry on a nearly identical pattern for a 36-yard strike, slicing the gap down to 26-14 with 3:32 left in the third.

A quick three-and-out gave the ball right back to the Lions and, following a 33-yard catch by Lester and a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on the Ramblers, Neff hit Lester on a slant for an 18-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter and suddenly the Lions trailed by only five points and had all of the momentum.

Two plays into LaFayette’s next possession, they lost their third fumble of the night and Christian Heritage would take over at the Ramblers 32. Five plays would get them on the doorstep, but the ball would pop loose on the handoff and a mad scramble for the ball ensued.

Unfortunately for LaFayette, it was Lions’ lineman Mitchell Herndon who was the first one on the ball in the endzone and a two-point conversion catch by Lester gave Christian Heritage the 29-26 lead with just over eight minutes to play.

LaFayette took over at its own 14 and took advantage of a 15-yard penalty on Christian Heritage to get the ball past midfield. But an incomplete pass, a sack and a very short punt would snuff out the drive and give the Lions the ball back at their own 46 with 5:09 remaining.

Neff would come up big on a third-and-10 pass as he rolled out to the right and found Gentry on the sideline for 11 yards and a crucial first down. Moments later, Neff used his legs for 12 yards on another third-and-10 to keep the chains moving.

One play later, Gage Leonard found a hole on the left side and scampered 31 yards for the touchdown that would put the game away.

After throwing for 23 yards on 5-of-18 passing in the first half, Neff completed 12-of-18 attempts in the second half for 230 yards. Lester, held without a catch in the first half, finished with six receptions for 127 yards, while Gentry caught six passes for 104.

Daniel finished 20-of-26 for 282 yards, but had just 58 yards passing in the second half. Hu had another solid night with five catches for 89 yards and three rushes for 26 yards. Pendergrass caught six passes for 89 yards.

Nathan Hornung. Ben Maanum and Jack Martin were credited with sacks for the LaFayette defense.

LaFayette (3-1) will take a week off to regroup before beginning Region 6-AAAA play at home on Sept. 21 against Southeast Whitfield.