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Late-season surge lifts West Hall into playoffs with 14-7 win
Spartans get past Lumpkin County, earns final 7-AAA berth
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Spartans 14, Lumpkin County 7

Stat that matters: Senior punter Anthony Lotti punted the ball six times in the game, covering 310 yards. Of those six punts, five of them were downed inside the Lumpkin 7-yard line, setting up great field position for the Spartan defense.

Turning point: Lumpkin County, despite being down 14-0 until 4:25 was left in the fourth quarter, never seemed out of the game and threatened through the final play. AJ Favorite’s interception turned that around as the horn sounded.

Difference maker: Anthony Lotti’s booming kicks of 52, 53, 52, 52, 72 and 29 yards changed field position all night for the Spartans and gave their defense a chance to make plays.

Up next: West Hall travels to Calhoun for the first round of the state playoffs.

With their backs against the wall and needing a win to stay alive in the playoff chase, the West Hall Spartans pulled out a 14-7 victory over Lumpkin County on Friday at The Burial Grounds in Dahlonega.

The win locked up a No. 4 seed for the Spartans (5-5, 3-3) as Franklin County defeated Fannin County 28-14.

Now West Hall will be heading to Calhoun to take on the Yellow Jackets in the first round of the 2015 state playoffs. Calhoun is representing Region 6-AAA as the No. 1 seed and is coming off a perfect (10-0, 8-0) regular season.

Coach Tony Lotti and his staff didn’t find out about the Franklin-Fannin game until about 20 minutes after their own game concluded.

As he gathered his team immediately after the victory, he told his team he was proud of them for handling what was in their control to stay alive in the playoff hunt.

“It says a lot about our character and our kids and our program to have a five-game skid like we had and pull out of it and win three,” Lotti said.

After finding out the score, he immediately shook hands with senior Kwon Williams and said, “We get another week, baby!”

Then Lotti yelled at his team to gather back up. With electric smiles and excitement, the Spartans turned toward their coach as he yelled, “Now, I get to say the best words in football after Week 10 — I’ll see you at practice on Monday!”

When he was initially told about the final score of the Franklin-Fannin game, Lotti bounced around looking at people asking if they were sure.

“We got one more week! That’s what we needed,” Lotti screamed. “Whoa! We’re not going away yet! How about that? Holy cow! Now, I’m speechless.”

As for the game, Lumpkin County (2-8, 0-6 7-AAA) took the Spartans out of it in the end of the third and nearly the whole fourth quarter.

Starting with the ball with 2:57 left in the third, the Indians marched 95 yards downfield on a 21-play drive and knocked more than 10 minutes, 30 seconds off the clock.

Zach Matthews (23 carries, 86 yards, TD) capped the drive with the only score of the game for the home team.

Lumpkin made the finish interesting after recovering an onside kick at the Spartans’ 38-yard line.

Five plays later, quarterback Chandler Woodham was intercepted by Tristian Hester, nearly sealing the game. The Spartans ran their only five offensive plays of the fourth quarter before punting the ball away.

Senior punter Anthony Lotti (6 punts, 310 yards) put the ball at the Indians’ 48-yard line with 14 seconds left.

In an effort to make something happen, Woodham threw an interception to AJ Favorite to cap the game.

West Hall controlled the first half. On their second drive of the game, the Spartans were forced to punt for the second time. Anthony’s punt was mishandled by the Lumpkin returner and the ball was recovered by Tyquan Statham at the 1-yard line.

Quarterback Cameron Shirley leaned over the goal line for a touchdown to put the Spartans up 7-0 with 3:53 left in the first.

The Indians then went on a 12-play drive and forced the Spartans to punt again. On Lumpkin County’s ensuing drive, Matthews fumbled and Williams recovered the loose ball.

Three plays later, following a 16-yard run for Statham, Williams (four carries, 66 yards, TD) took a handoff to the house for a 54-yard score and a 14-0 lead.

After pulling off the victory, Williams said getting the win was “a beautiful feeling.”

“It’s just a great feeling because we went on a five-game losing streak,” Williams said. “We pulled together, came together as a team, and won these last three games. As a senior, it’s a beautiful feeling.”

The win, according to coach Lotti, marks this senior class as the class with the most wins in its four years, totaling 23 victories in that span.

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