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Herald No. 1 Lee County rebounds, handles Hardaway

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

LEESBURG -- For the second time this season in Region 1-AAAA play, Lee County allowed a team to score 20 straight points in the second half to make things interesting.

But just as they did against Houston County, the Trojans came up big at the end Friday night with a 39-32 win against Hardaway.

Lee County quarterback Justin Walker threw for 428 yards and five touchdowns to help move the Trojans (6-1, 3-1 Region 1-AAAA) into second place in the region playoff race. Four of Walker's touchdown throws and 315 yards came in the first half as Lee built a 32-6 halftime lead over Hardaway (3-4, 2-2 Region 1-AAAA).

"We relax too much when we get up," said Trojans head coach Dean Fabrizio, whose team had a 35-7 halftime lead earlier in the season against Houston County before surviving, 45-42. "We've got to learn to play disciplined football for four quarters."

Walker connected with Denzel Eckles (26 yards), Sanford Seay (77 yards) and James Terrell (12 and 46 yards) for scores in the first two quarters before Hardaway and all-region player Austin Scott found their rhythm.

Scott busted a 68-yard touchdown run to open the second half and then scored on a 40-yard run with 8:43 left in the game to cut into the Trojans lead, 39-25. Scott scored his third touchdown of the second half when he caught a 4-yard Joseph Gibson pass with 4:06 remaining in the game, the 20th unanswered point in the second half for the Hawks that made it a one score game.

"Austin Scott is a tremendous athlete, probably the best player in the region," Fabrizio said of Hardaway's senior, who lined up all over the field and finished with 153 yards rushing and 58 yards receiving.

Hardaway got that ball back at its own 20 with 2:15 to play but then imploded.

Lee County's Austin Joyner and Vernorris Hayes sacked Gibson on first and second downs and then Seay pulled downed Scott at the 1 on third down.

On 4th-and-29, Kenneth Hurley intercepted Gibson's desperation heave to end the game.

"I was nervous," Trojans senior linebacker Kolt Parsons said of the final drive. "We needed a big play and we came up with one."

Walker completed 27-of-48 pass attempts and was intercepted once. Seay finished with 157 yards on eight catches and also had 97 kickoff return yards. Terrell caught nine passes for 146 yards and two scores.

Hardaway's Gibson was 19-of-35 for 261 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Devin Jackson caught two of the scoring throws and finished with seven receptions for 127 yards for the Hawks.

Hardaway had just six points and 114 yards of offense in the first half before outscoring Lee 26-7 in the second half while rolling up 317 yards in the final two quarters. Lee County was held to 132 yards in the second half but managed to outgain the Hawks 470-431 in total yardage.

"We had to bounce back and get another win," said Seay, referring to last week's 42-7 loss to Class AAAA No. 1 Northside Warner Robins. "We couldn't let one loss bring us down. We lose our minds sometimes, and (opposing teams) get back in the game. We just have to focus."

Lee County's only points of the second half came on Walker's 29-yard screen pass score to Josh Cabrera, which put the Trojans up 39-12 with 10:16 left in the third before Hardaway scored 20 straight points.

Fabrizio, who nearly missed the game with what he thought might be food poisoning, said the Trojans have to learn to finish, especially with Thomas County Central invading Leesburg next Friday in a huge Region 1-AAAA showdown.

"These are good teams and they aren't going to quit," Fabrizio said. "When we're focused, we're a good team. When we lose focus, we're not a very good team."