LEESBURG — Although the final score wasn’t what Lee County High School hoped for in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series game against Saint Frances (Maryland) Saturday night, Lee County head football coach Dean Fabrizio said he was proud of the support the Trojans received from the community.

“To be invited to play in the game was special,” he said. “And it was a great atmosphere.”

A near-capacity crowd and national television audience on ESPNU watched St. Frances beat the Trojans 43-14 Saturday night at Trojan Field. Fabrizio and the Trojans were honored to be just the second school from Georgia invited to play in the prestigious event. Valdosta High, the nation’s all-time winningest high school football program, was the other state school. The Wildcats, after winning the Georgia High School Association Class 6A state championship in 2016, lost to Chandler (Ariz.) 44-24.

Georgia High School Association Executive Director Robin Hines was at the game. He said Lee County getting an opportunity to represent the state was exciting.

“We have a relationship with the people who put this game on,” Hines said. “They’ve been good to us. It gives us an opportunity to play in the national spotlight, and we’re excited for the opportunity.”

BIG NAMES WATCHING: Georgia high school coaches from as far away as Coastal Georgia and Metro Atlanta traveled to Leesburg to watch the event. Among the high-profile coaches spotted on the sidelines were Colquitt County head coach Rush Propst and Warner Robins coach Mike Chastain, a former assistant under Fabrizio at Lee County.

Albany State head coach Gabe Giardina attended the game as well as former Division I football players Tory Carter and Detravion Bishop. Carter played at Lee County before signing with LSU. Bishop played at Terrell County before signing with Georgia.

TOUGH TO RUN ON: St. Frances held Lee County to just 15 yards rushing and forced the Trojans to go to the air. Shaundarious Kimbrough led the way with 27 yards and a score, but the rest of the team finished with a combined minus-12 yards on the ground.

TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS: Two costly fumbles led directly to 13 points for the Panthers. And perhaps a key change in momentum.

A big hit jarred the ball loose in the first quarter that Osman Savage scooped and rambled 40 yards for a touchdown after Lee County had managed to tie the game at 7.

Then the critical fumble on third down inside the St. Frances 20 to open the third quarter thwarted any chance the Trojans had of taking the lead. The turnover came after Jammie Robinson took the opening kickoff of the second half 79 yards on an electrifying return. After the fumble, St. Frances scored on a back-breaking 87-yard touchdown run three plays later to grab a 26-14 advantage.

Defensive lineman Deangelo Griffin said things might have been different without the fumble.

“That’s what we said (at halftime),” Griffin said. “We felt like we could get the win before the fumble.”

QUICK HITS: Lee County’s 227 yards of total offense was its lowest output of the season. … Cornerback Derrick Gorsuch added another interception, giving him six on the season. … The Trojans trailed 20-14 at halftime, only the second time this year they trailed after the first two quarters of play. … Officials estimated that more than 7,000 fans attended the game. … St. Frances played in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series for the second straight season. Last year, they routed Bingham (Utah) 41-3.

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