SUGAR HILL – It won’t go down in the history books as the prettiest win in school history, but it looked just fine as the final seconds ticked off in Lanier’s 24-7 win over Oconee County Friday night.
Lanier, now 2-0 and winners of four in a row dating back to the 2012 season, will now hit the road for three straight at Franklin County, Madison County and Monroe Area to close out September.
“It was kind of one of those nights when you had to be on point in terms of the logistics of the game,” said Lanier head coach Billy Wells. “There were certainly some times in the game that we probably got frustrated with the way things were going. But we addressed some of those things at halftime and I’m proud of the way the kids responded.”
In Friday’s night victory, Lanier’s offense had some moments when it looked solid and moved the ball en route to three touchdowns.
But it was the Longhorns’ defense that had just one hiccup all night long in dominating the Warriors’ offense.
Lanier forced three interceptions, a fumble, a blocked punt and held Oconee County to just 139 yards of total offense.
Two of the interceptions and the fumble recovery went to Jesse Landers, who found himself in the right place at the right time all night for Lanier.
In fact, Oconee County accounted for 97 of its total yards in the first half and finished the final two quarters with just 42 yards of offense against the stout Lanier defense.
“I liked the way we went to the ball,” said Wells. “Except for that one touchdown, we played very solid tonight. We were able to shut down the run and forced them to throw the ball.”
Lanier got on the scoreboard first as the Longhorns blocked Oconee County’s first punt of the game and the football sailed out the back of the end zone for the 2-0 lead less than a minute into the contest.
Lanier penetrated the Oconee County backfield with ease and Stefan Ball got the block for the game’s first points.
But Oconee County came back and scored on a 39-yard TD pass from Eli Cheely to Andrew Shuford as the Warriors completed a quick six-play, 61-yard drive for the 7-2 advantage with 3:55 remaining in the first quarter.
Lanier finally settled into its offense on the Longhorns’ third possession and Tario Fuller finished off a seven-play, 80-yard drive with a 2-yard run to make it 8-7 after the two-point pass failed with 1:43 left in the opening quarter.
Lanier increased its lead to 14-7 midway through the second quarter when Fuller scored again from two yards out, but the point-after kick sailed wide.
Lanier and Oconee County had their share of miscues in the opening half as each team missed a field goal and also threw an interception.
But Lanier opened the second half with an 11-play, 63-yard drive that culminated in Tim Leazer’s 7-yard pass from Tahj Tolbert to up the Longhorns’ lead to 21-7.
“Credit Oconee with what they were doing in the first half, because it made us change some things were doing offensively,” said Wells. “So it was nice to see us put that drive together to open the second half. That drive was about us and what we need to do well.”
Ryan Edwards later added a 19-yard field goal with just three seconds left in the third quarter for Lanier’s final points of the night.
Tario Fuller led the Lanier rushing attack with 84 yards on 21 carries, including two TD runs, while quarterback Canyon Cook was 18 of 26 for 215 yards and one interception.
Cook used five different receivers, including Ashton Barnes’ six catches for 61 yards and Devin Valentine’s five receptions for 77 yards.
Unfortunately, Lanier will have to address 17 penalties that accounted for over 100 yards that had as much to do with the Longhorns’ lack of offense flow as the Oconee County defense.
LANIER 24, OCONEE COUNTY 7
OCONEE CO. 7 0 0 0 — 7
LANIER 8 6 10 0 — 24
Lanier: Blocked punt out back of end zone for safety, 11:04
Oconee County: Andrew Shuford 39 pass from Eli Cheely (Jeff Greenfield kick) 3:55
Lanier: Tario Fuller 2 run (pass failed) 1:43
Lanier: Fuller 2 run (kick failed) 6:12
Lanier: Tim Leazer 7 pass from Tahj Tolbert (Ryan Edwards kick) 7:18
Lanier: Edwards 19 FG, :03