HOMER — Dylan Lackey made sure Banks County didn't head into the Region 8-AA play-in game with back-to-back losses.
The senior rushed for 173 yards and five touchdowns and added a 29-yard interception return to lead the Leopards to a 53-28 win over the East Hall Vikings on Friday night.
With the win, the Leopards (6-2, 3-1 Region 8A-AA) earned second place in the subregion and will travel to play Hart County, the No. 3 seed out of 8B-AA. If the Leopards win next week, they'll earn a spot in the Class AA state playoffs.
Combined with Dawson County's win over Rabun County on Friday, the Vikings (3-6, 2-3) fell out of the subregion's top three and cannot qualify for a state playoff spot.
Lackey wasted no time putting away the Vikings, rushing for two touchdowns and scoring on the interception in the first quarter to give the Leopards a 20-0 lead.
"We knew they were tough and had some good players," said Lackey, who had 25 carries and touchdown runs of 2, 3, 5, 24 and 26 yards. "But we watched film and saw they would give up if you just kept hitting them and hitting them in the mouth.
"My line blocked great and (running back Jeremy Greenway) was the lead block on all my touchdowns. He just kept pounding and pounding and I was just walking into the end zone easily."
Lackey also walked into the end zone easily after he intercepted a pitch on defense. That touchdown came as the first quarter expired and only 1:20 after his 26-yard scoring run.
"I was set up by (defensive coordinator Paul Hoch)," Lackey said. "He said if (the quarterback) comes to the outside, to watch the pitch. I watched the pitch, it went straight to my hands, and touchdown."
Vikings quarterback Zach Groover's 71-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter brought the score to 20-7, where it would stay until halftime.
Lackey opened the second half with a 2-yard touchdown run setup by Greenway's 65-yard run. Jamond Witt took the ensuing kickoff to the Leopards' 8 and Groover ran 2 yards for his second score two plays later, bringing the score to 26-14 with 7:49 in the third quarter.
Just 16 seconds later, Greenway responded with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to push the Leopards lead back to 32-14 and essentially end the game. The Vikings didn't score again until 1:58 remaining in the game, when Banks County put in its subs.
"We've got that 1-2 punch between Greenway and Lackey," Leopards coach Blair Armstrong said. "It kind of keeps them guessing between who's getting it and which way it's going. It helps to have two good backs in the wing-T, and they both did a great job tonight."
Greenway rushed for 174 yards on just nine carries.
The Vikings needed to win and get some help to qualify for third place in 8A-AA and a chance to qualify for the state playoffs. But the early deficit compounded by three interceptions and a lost fumble and three turnovers on downs were too much to overcome.
"Too many mistakes, that's all," Vikings coach Bryan Gray said. "We played real hard, but we've got to be able to tackle on the trap plays.
"That hurt us," he added. "It comes down to execution. Banks County came to play tonight and they're a good team. But I'm proud of our effort."
Witt had 13 carries for 73 yards and he also caught a 43-yard touchdown from freshman quarterback Cameron Davis with a minute left in the game.
Also for East Hall, Carlos Negron carried nine times for 44 yards, followed by Groover's 58 yards. Geo Funes rushed for a 11-yard score late in the fourth quarter and had two catches for 20 yards.
For Banks County, Wes Faulkner rushed for a 3-yard score late in the fourth quarter.