Jock Hornor Field was the perfect setting for a slugfest on Friday night as Lakeview Academy gave Athens Christian all it wanted in a 28-21 win by the visitors.
The Eagles (3-2, 4-0 Region 8-A) nearly had their perfect region record knocked off as the Lions (1-4, 1-3) turned a late interception into points before getting a big defensive stand to swing momentum in their favor.
The ensuing possession was marred by a 15-yard intentional grounding call, much to the ire of the home fans.
The drive stalled and the Lions were forced to punt, which sealed the game in the Eagles’ favor.
“They’re a very good football team. I’m just proud of our guys. We went toe to toe with them and gave ourselves a shot,” Lakeview coach Matthew Gruhn. “A play here or a play there and who knows what could have happened.”
KJ Millwood was the recipient of the interception to set up the final score for Lakeview. The Lions were able to force four turnovers on the night (two interceptions, two fumbles) and were able to turn two of them into points.
Millwood’s interception came on a desperation heave from scrambling Eagles’ quarterback Terrell Mattox and set the Lions up on their 7-yard line.
From there, Lakeview marched 93 yards downfield. The drive finished with a 13-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Alec Bornhorst to tight end Carter Reeves (five receptions, 31 yards, touchdown).
The Lions then forced Athens Christian to punt on fourth-and-18 after making two stops in the backfield on run plays before chasing Mattox back and sacking him.
The intentional grounding call backed Lakeview into a third-and-20 situation from which it couldn’t recover.
“Our kids — it’s just a testament to our kids that they’re going to play hard,” Gruhn said of his team’s comeback effort. “They’re going to fight. Now we’re starting to play with a little bit of confidence, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the season to see what we can become.”
The Eagles started things quickly, taking their opening possession 55 yards to score on a 17-yard run by Jordan Arnold.
The Lions were unable to answer and were forced to punt. They caused and recovered a fumble two plays later.
Lakeview pulled even when running back Dillon Knepp (nine carries, 16 yards, touchdown) rushed in for a 13-yard score.
The Lions punted on their next three possessions, fumbled on their sixth possession of the first half and then ran out the clock on the seventh.
Athens Christian punted just once in the first half, but turned the ball over on two fumbles and an interception, picked off by Jerrod Abee at the Lions’ 17-yard line.
The Eagles were able to make the halftime score 22-7 with a 5-yard touchdown run from Quavion Teasley and a 1-yard rushing score by AJ Rowe on back-to-back drives. Rowe’s score was coupled with a 2-point conversion.
Lakeview opened the second half with a 71-yard drive that ended with a wild touchdown play. The Lions lined up for a 25-yard field goal attempt, but the snap slipped through Bornhorst’s hands. He scooped up the ball and scrambled, avoiding would-be tacklers and eventually finding Brannon Browner wide open in the end zone.
The score brought Lakeview Academy within one score, 22-14, of the Eagles, but pulled a little more momentum in their direction to go for the comeback.
The Eagles distanced themselves once again on their next possession with Teasley punching in a 2-yard run before the Lions pulled within one score again on Reeves’ score, ultimately ending scoring.
“We are definitely getting better as a football team,” Gruhn said. “We’ve improved each week and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Bornhorst completed 21 of his 35 pass attempts for 235 yards, but the Lions finished with 229 yards of total offense with the running game totaling minus-6 yards.
“They were huge up front,” Gruhn said. “We knew running was going to be a challenge, but we throw and catch it pretty good sometimes. We did that tonight.”
Knepp lead Lakeview Academy with 78 receiving yards on three receptions, followed by sophomore Peyton Solinsky with two receptions for 60 yards.
The Eagles’ balanced attack led to 371 yards (215 rushing, 156 passing) of total offense.
Forty-eight of Athens Christian’s passing yards came on a sweep pass back to Mattox. He ended the night 7-of-12 passing for 108 yards and two interceptions.
Lakeview travels to Prince Avenue Christian next week for a region showdown in Bogart. Gruhn hopes his team rolls in with some confidence from Friday’s game.
“They’re pretty good, too,” Gruhn said of Prince Avenue Christian. “That’s just our region — it’s pretty tough — but I wouldn’t expect anything less from our kids.”