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Lanier slump continues with loss to Stephens Co.

Lanier's Taylor Grant (10)

Lanier's Taylor Grant (10)

TOCCOA -- Both teams moved the ball on offense and played good defense at times. But when it came down to winning the game, one team simply seized the moment. That was the case Friday night at The Reservation as Stephens County pulled out a 27-18 win over Lanier in a crucial Region 8-AAAA game.

Lanier, which was coming off a tough overtime loss last week to Chestatee, saw its losing streak go to four games and the record drop to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the region. But the Longhorns didn't go down without a fight and nearly rode the arm of senior quarterback Taylor Grant to victory. Grant connected on 24 of 35 passes for 362 yards with three touchdown passes, including two to wideout Onyx Berrios. But when the moment was right, Lanier just couldn't deliver.

"This is a heartbreaking loss and it's going to hurt," said Lanier head coach Billy Wells. "Stephens County is a very good team that can run the ball and throw the ball. We also made some plays and did some good things. But it's those moments in big games when kids have to respond and unfortunately tonight, they just made a few more than we did."

After a scoreless first quarter, Lanier got its offense untracked as Grant connected with Berrios on a 6-yard touchdown pass. That completed a 14-play, 81-yard drive and put Lanier up 6-0 after the extra point was blocked with 10:23 remaining in the second quarter.

But Stephens County (6-2, 3-2) came right back with a nine-play, 70-yard drive and scored on a fourth-and-goal from the Lanier 7 when Damen Postell raced in on a wide-receiver reverse. Matt Moon nailed the extra point and Stephens County took the lead 7-6 with 6:05 to go in the second quarter.

Stephens County had another golden opportunity to extend the lead late in the first half as the Indians marched to the Lanier 7. But the Longhorns' defense held when a fourth-and-two pass went incomplete.

Lanier struck immediately on the first play of the second half as Grant hit Marty Sanders on an 80-yard TD pass to give the Longhorns the lead again. Lanier's two-point conversion pass went incomplete and the Longhorns led 12-7 just eight seconds into the third quarter.

Stephens County wasted no time regaining the lead as Chaz Thornton got loose on a 53-yard run to finish a quick three-play, 63-yard drive. After the two-point conversion pass failed, the Indians were back in front 13-12 just 1:22 into the third quarter.

Then Colbert got busy again. First, he pulled down a 43-yard pass on third-and- 35 to give Stephens County new life at the Lanier 33. Then Colbert went high over three defenders in the end zone to grab a 31-yard TD pass on fourth-and-eight to give Stephen County a 20-12 lead with 4:07 left in the third quarter.

After Lanier missed a 30-yard field goal to open the fourth quarter, the Longhorns pulled to within two at 20-18 as Berrios caught a 51-yard strike from Grant. But the two-point conversion pass failed again with 7:40 to play. That set the stage for Thornton, who scored from five yards out to increase the Stephens County lead to 27-18 with 4:00 to go after Lanier had muffed a punt. Thornton was the real deal as the senior finished with 217 yards on 37 carries and two TD runs. The Longhorns did get the ball back two more times in the final four minutes, but an interception killed one and time expired to finish the game.