It wasn't easy. For the first 67 minutes of Wednesday's first-round state playoff match against the Rockdale County Bulldogs (7-9-0), Lambert boys varsity (17-1-0) had nothing but frustration to show for its efforts.
That all changed with just 12:17 left on the clock. Campbell Wilson lofted a picture-perfect corner kick over the defense to striker Hayden Fontana who tucked a header past the Bulldog keeper and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Longhorn lead. It was Fontana's 22nd goal of the season and the fans exploded with glee and relief.
For most of the game, the Lambert attack was stymied by a tough, stay-at-home Bulldog defense and a skilled, acrobatic keeper. Not that the Longhorns didn't have their chances. For the match, they outshot Rockdale 27-5 and won 12 corner kicks.
As the clock wound down, the Bulldogs finally wore down and conceded Fontana's clinical conversion of the corner kick. Once Lambert had the lead, Rockdale was forced to come out of its defensive shell and try to tie the match.
The Longhorns, suddenly gifted with more room to attack. took full advantage. With just over one minute remaining, junior defender Harry Maughan took a pass from Thomas Powers and blasted a rocket from 15 yards out for a 2-0 Lambert lead. It was Maughan's first goal of the season and provided some welcome breathing room for the 'Horns and their supporters.
In the end, it was a hard-won victory over a large, physical opponent, which played sturdy defense and came close to the tieing goal on a free kick from distance in the final minutes.
The ever-solid Lambert defense and keeper Chris Smith, however, held off the Bulldogs to earn their 13th shutout of the season. FINAL SCORE: LAMBERT 2, ROCKDALE COUNTY 0.
Lambert has little time to celebrate. Next Wednesday, May 1, they host Gwinnett County powerhouse Collins Hill Eagles (15-3-0) in Round 2 of the state playoffs. The Eagles won a 4-3, first-round overtime thriller against Central Gwinnett. (7-8-0). Collins Hill is ranked #4 in Georgia Class 7A, Lambert is ranked #1.
Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. at the Horn. The boys' game follows the undefeated (!) Lambert girls' playoff tilt against Peachtree Ridge at 6 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the gate for $10, providing admission to both matches. No free passes are honored for state tournament games.
Please join us and support our teams as they continue their quests for the Georgia 7A state championship. HOOK 'EM!
FIRST-ROUND PLAYOFF RESULTS FOR REGION 5 TEAMS:
LAMBERT 2, Rockdale County 0
Milton 5, Grayson 0
Forsyth Central 2, Archer 1
South Forsyth 3, S. Gwinnett 0
NEWSPAPER STORIES ON THE LAMBERT-ROCKDALE GAME:
Rockdale Newton Citizen: