VALDOSTA - The Lowndes Vikings capitalized on two long drives and scored on a big play to move past Peachtree Ridge 22-7 in a battle of the 2006 and 2007 AAAAA state champions Friday.
Lowndes (2-0), the nation's No. 2-ranked football team, passed its biggest test of the young season against the Lions (0-2), who were also hurt on offense by being called for 10 penalties for 90 yards, and by throwing two interceptions.
The Vikings kept mistakes to a minimum, committing just four penalties and having one late fumble. Peachtree Ridge battled the entire contest, but the Lowndes' defense refused to buckle when the time came to keep the Lions out of the end zone.
"We played hard," Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson said. "I'm proud of the effort of our kids and our coaches."
Lowndes led 15-0 at halftime, but the visiting Lions fought back.
Peachtree Ridge scored on a 7-yard run by Ronnie Smith with 29 seconds left in the third quarter. Smith led the Lions with 77 yards on 16 carries, followed by quarterback Nick Lombardo with 56 yards on nine carries. Lombardo also put up 95 yards in the air, throwing 12 completions on 22 passes.
The Vikings answered with a 72-yard march early in the fourth quarter.
Greg Reid caught an 18-yard pass from Tyler Hunter on a second down play, and then ran for 13 more yards on a first down play to set up first-and-10 on the Lions' 29-yard line. From there, Hunter hit Gerald Demps for a 29-yard touchdown and the game's final score.
Peachtree Ridge would attempt a long drive of its own on the next series, but Reid ended that drive with an interception in the end zone with 2:24 remaining.
Lowndes then fumbled the ball on its final possession, but Reid again sealed the win with another interception, and this time returned it 53 yards, allowing Lowndes to kneel on the ball with four seconds left.
"Peachtree Ridge is a good football team," McPherson said. "Our kids played a tough game."