LFO senior quarterback Zach Vaughn picked the biggest game of the season (so far) to have the biggest game of his career.
Led onto the field at Tommy Cash Stadium by a pair of American flags, held by Vaughn and defensive leader Drew Woodard, the Warriors took the field Friday night knowing that only dangerous Murray County was all that stood between them and the improbable – a chance to play for the 6-AAA North championship.
But with Vaughn at the controls, it soon became apparent that the question was not "what if?" but "how much?" At the end of the night, the home team had piled up 587 totals yards and a staggering 30 first down en route to a 54-31 victory.
Vaught’s share of the production included 241 passing yards (on 12-of-15 attempts) in addition to 186 yards gained on the ground. His touchdowns included runs of 15, 4 and 47 yards and throws of 17 and 64 yards.
Jacob Flanagan and Ruddy Ware were on the receiving end of those touchdown passes.
Victorious head coach Bo Campbell knows full well what a talented collaborator he has in Vaughn.
"I’ll tell you what. The only way I can describe Zach is that he is the biggest competitor on this year," he said. "He does not like to lose and he does not like to be tackled – and you can tell that by watching the way he runs. I thought he had a great game tonight being a dual threat. He threw the ball as well as he ran it."
The Warriors struck first. Nathan Williams scored on the game-opening drive and Vaughn later hit Flanagan on a 17-yard strike for a 14-3 lead. But Murray needed only three plays to answer on a run by quarterback John Reed and tailback Tucker Gregg added a 27-yard TD run to put the Indians in the lead.
Following a Vaughn interception, Murray extended their advantage on a 10-yard pass from Reed to Justin Genitempo. However, LFO would cut the gap down to 24-21 as Vaughn scored his first rushing touchdown of the night with 1:30 left in the half.
But the turning point may have occurred late in the half. After a 19-yard run by Gregg put the visitors in the red zone, a potential first-and-goal carry by Reed in the closing seconds was pried away and Woodard came away with the fumble.
"Drew is our defensive leader," Campbell said. "He had a lot to do with getting us calmed down and refocused at halftime."
Murray got the ball first in the third quarter, but managed only one first down before having to punt it away. The Warriors drove the ball 70 yards for a go-ahead score, with the big play being a 42-yard completion to tight end Brian Burk on a deflection. Four plays later, Williams scored from three yards out.
Williams was the workhorse of the night, carrying the ball 31 times for 229 yards and three touchdowns.
Reed answered with a quick strike, a 53-yard pass to Preston Vanmeter to retake the lead, 31-28, but the Warriors would go on to score the next four touchdowns unanswered to leave the visitors reeling.
Vaughn's 4-yard run with 1:46 left in the third gave LFO the lead for good and Ware hauled in a 64-yard TD strike from Vaughn with 12 ticks left in the period. He finished the night with six grabs for 149 yards. Vaughn and Williams added TD runs in the fourth to ice the victory.
"We knew Murray was a good football team with a great running back and their quarterback played a great game in the first half when our defense came out a little flat," Campbell said. "In the second half, we calmed down a little bit, made some adjustments and our defense responded."
LFO stuffed the Indians on downs three times in the second half (four overall for the game) and held Gregg to a mere 13 yards rushing after he churned out 106 yards in the opening two quarters. Reed was just 4-for-15 passing in the second half.
The victory sets up a huge game this coming from in Chatsworth as the Warriors (5-3 overall, 3-0 in 6-AAA North) travel to take on North Murray (5-3, 3-0) for the North subregion title. top seed. North Murray did its part by dismantling winless Coahulla Creek, 57-0.
Region 6-AAA South will also have a winner-take-all game as Calhoun visits Bremen in a battle of state-ranked teams.
LFO's fifth win is the most for the program since the 2012 season, while the 54 points were the first time the Warriors had topped the 50-point barrier since 2008 when they scored 56 on North Paulding.