Lions' defense impressive in second-round victory

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

A close football game looked like it was ready to get even closer.

Peachtree Ridge's bad punt snap Friday night gave Brookwood possession at the Lions' 23-yard line. The Broncos were playing well defensively and in prime position to cut into a 14-6 deficit.

But that didn't happen. Instead of going forward, their offense was pushed back by Peachtree Ridge for a quick turnover on downs. It was the turning point for the Lions (10-2), who won the Class AAAAA second-round matchup 21-6.

"We got put in a bad position and I was feeling kind of nervous for a minute," said Lion cornerback Brad Roby, who had five solo tackles and a pass breakup. "But I knew our defense would come through. We call ourselves Black Death. I knew we'd step up."

The defense, like it has most of the season, did step up.

Brookwood quarterback Ben McLane was under constant heat from Peachtree Ridge, getting sacked six times and completing just 2 of 15 passes for 16 yards. Those sacks attributed to the Broncos' 40 rushing yards on 26 attempts.

Twan Sandridge had six tackles (five solos) and 31/2 sacks, sporting a No. 34 jersey for the first time instead of his customary No. 8.

"His jersey got burned in the dryer this week," Peachtree Ridge head coach Bill Ballard said. "The way he played, we might just leave that number on him."

"Twan Sandridge played the game of his life," Lions linebacker A.J. McDonald said.

But he was hardly alone. Tyler Botts, Eric Mitchell, Eric Odonkor and Tony Porter also had parts of sacks. Dubem Nwadiogbu had five solo tackles and Brian Williams broke up two passes.

The Lions, who take on Northside-Warner Robins in this week's quarterfinals, have held nine of their last 10 opponents to 10 points or less. Brookwood was in position to top that 10-point mark early in the fourth quarter until the Peachtree Ridge defense responded with what Ballard called a "sudden change."

One of the unit's bulletin board goals is a stop on a "sudden change," like a turnover or a special teams miscue.

"We emphasize if the offense turns it over, we have to step up and make the stop," McDonald said.

The Lions made four straight stops on Friday night's decisive change of possession, getting a momentum-changing stand that led to a long offensive drive for the clinching touchdown. They also had success despite playing without injured linebacker Tanner Botts, the unit's leading tackler.

Even without him, Brookwood found no offensive success in the playoff game.

"We stopped their whole offense, their passing game and their running game," Roby said. "We were getting sacks left and right."