LaFayette Ramblers

And just like that, the playoff race in Region 6-AAA got a whole lot more interesting.

The LaFayette Ramblers, who led 32-14 midway through the third quarter on Friday night, surrendered 28 straight points in a little more than 14 minutes of game time and suffered a tough 42-38 loss to Sonoraville at Jack King Stadium.

It was the first region victory of the year for the Phoenix (3-5, 1-5) and just the second region loss of the season for the Ramblers (4-4, 4-2).

Rockmart moved to 6-0 in region play with a 45-7 trouncing of Adairsville on Friday night, while also dropping the Tigers to 4-2 in 6-AAA, a record that could be matched by Ringgold (4-3, 3-2), should they take care of a Coahulla Creek team (2-6, 1-5) that will be playing its third game since last Friday night when they travel to Ringgold for a noon kickoff on Saturday.

Should Ringgold win, there will be a three-way tie for third place behind Rockmart and North Murray (5-2, 5-1), who handled its business against Murray County on Friday night, 56-8. Adairsville, LaFayette and Ringgold are all currently 1-1 against each other.

Adairsville holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over LaFayette. LaFayette holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Ringgold and Ringgold holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Adairsville.

Adairsville will host North Murray next Friday night. LaFayette will travel to Rockmart, while Ringgold will have to go on the road to play a Sonoraville team that continues to show its offensive firepower, even if their win/loss record doesn't indicate it.

The Phoenix came into Friday's game allowing 36 points a game, putting them at the bottom of 6-AAA in that category, but still putting up over 26 points a game on offense. However, the Ramblers - averaging 32.4 a game and giving up 25.9 a game coming into the contest - scored on its opening possession and converted a Sonoraville fumble into another touchdown just over three minutes later to take a quick 14-0 lead.

The Phoenix answered on the legs of quarterback Brady Lackey with a 1-yard sneak, set up by a 46-yard completion to Nick Beddington that saw Lackey somehow avoid a sack before finding his receiver wide open behind the LaFayette defense.

However, LaFayette responded with another score as two sizeable runs by quarterback Jaylon Ramsey set things up for a 5-yard TD run by Jamario Clements in the final minute of the opening quarter.

After missing a 40-yard field goal on its next possession, Sonoraville would get the ball back three plays later as Beddington picked off an attempted flea flicker pass and a huge 57-yard catch by Beddington helped the Phoenix get back on the board on a 1-yard run by Zach Lyles with 1:55 left in the half.

But less than two minutes would be just enough time for LaFayette to drive 60 yards in 10 plays. The Ramblers overcame two 5-yard penalties and got a big 17-yard, fourth-down grab by Jalen Suttle before Ramsey faked a reverse handoff to Suttle and rolled to his left to find a wide-open Clements for a 6-yard TD pass with five seconds left before halftime.

More bad news for Sonoraville was delivered early in the second half as the ball was stripped at the 39 with Kevin Kremb pouncing on the loose pigskin for the Ramblers. Five plays later, Clements plowed in from the 1 and LaFayette enjoyed a 32-14 lead with 7:13 left in the third.

But just when it looked as if LaFayette would be able to salt away a fifth region victory, things quickly changed.

A 15-yard penalty on the Ramblers on what would have been an incomplete pass by Lackey on fourth down kept a Sonoraville drive going and, on the very next play, Lyles broke free for a 32-yard touchdown. The Ramblers would then fumble on their very next play from scrimmage and the Phoenix needed just one play to get in the endzone again as Lackey found Beddington on a 27-yard strike to slice LaFayette's lead down to 32-28.

The Ramblers drove inside the Sonoraville 35 on their ensuing possession, but Davin O'Neal came up with a huge third-down sack to force a punt. Thirteen plays, 89 yards and 4:20 later, Lackey crashed through the line on another 1-yard sneak to put his team ahead for the first time in the game, 35-32, with 7:59 remaining.

LaFayette appeared to have retaken the lead as Ramsey got loose on a keeper and scampered 73 yards to the house. However, the Ramblers were flagged for holding on the play and were forced to punt it away moments later.

It would take the Phoenix just four plays, with their aid of another 15-yard LaFayette penalty, to cover 58 yards. The final play came on an endaround run by Jaxon Pate that put Sonoraville up 42-32 with exactly five minutes remaining.

LaFayette would go 80 yards in 15 plays, scoring with 1:05 to go after Ramsey was able to somehow get a pass headed in the direction of Clements as he was being dragged down for looked to be a third-down sack. Clements corralled the short toss and dove over the goal line to complete the 5-yard play.

But without any more time-outs to stop the clock, the Ramblers were forced to try an onside kick. However, it was recovered by the Phoenix and Lackey was able to take a knee twice to seal the victory.

The Sonoraville senior signal-caller, who was a perfect 10 for 10 passing through the first two-and-a-half quarters, finished 14 of 17 for 252 yards, 130 going to Beddington on just three catches. Brant Bryant added 51 yards on three receptions, while Lyles churned out 131 yards on 15 carries.

Ramsey had 21 carries for 115 yards with one TD on the ground and went 13 of 18 in the air for 151 yards. Suttle and Clements both picked up 62 yards rushing with Suttle adding one score, while Junior Barber led the Ramblers with 52 yards receiving on four catches.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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