A lack of solid blocking and tackling were areas of concern that plagued Lithia Springs in 2014.
The woes of these two critical components started in spring practice and carried over to the season finale, culminating with Paulding County knocking off the Lions, 40-15.
The Patriots defense abused Lithia’s blocking schemes with a lethal mixture of stunts and blitzes. This mismatch led to several off-lined passes from quarterback Jadon Walker and a quick series of downs for an offense which has clawed its way uphill all year.
“We knew we were going to get pressure from their front. Once they [Paulding County] got up a couple of scores, we had to throw the ball, and that’s what their defense wanted us to do,” said head coach Craig Chatman.
At the beginning, Paulding County’s offense had its share of struggles, too. Nevertheless, once it found a groove, the team built a strong surge and didn’t let up until the clock hit zero in the fourth quarter.
Paulding County broke a scoreless tie early in the second quarter when running back Thomas Sieh reached the end zone on an eight-yard run. The Patriots’ two-point conversion failed, making the game 6-0.
With 31 seconds remaining in the half, Lithia finally cracked the scoreboard on a 22-yard reception by Deandre Gullatt. The extra point split the uprights and the Lions led, 7-6. However, it was a short-lived celebration.
On the ensuing possession, Paulding County silenced the Lithia crowd when quarterback Tre Lewis hit Michael Lovejoy on a 58-yard pass for a touchdown to close out the half. Lovejoy sprung free for the score after breaking two arm tackles and using his speed to elude the competition. The Patriots failed on the extra point and maintained a 12-7 advantage at intermission.
Paulding County’s extended its lead on the opening possession of the half on Sieh’s second rushing touchdown, putting the visitors up, 18-7.
Lithia Springs later responded with a 34-yard touchdown run by Gullatt. Walker then tossed a pass to Anthony Carmichael for the two-point conversion, cutting the deficit to 18-15. This would be as close as the Lions would get for the remainder of the contest.
The Patriots scored on their next time out when Lewis executed a textbook-style ball fake and sprinted 47 yards untouched up the middle, pushing the lead out to 24-15.
Paulding County added two more scores in the fourth quarter to send the Lions to the offseason on an eight-game losing streak.
“We had our opportunities tonight. I’m very disappointed for our seniors. I was hoping their last night on the field would be a victory. I love these guys and I’m going to do everything I can to help them,” said Chatman.
The Lions close out the season at 1-9 and 1-8 in Region 5-AAAAA. The team underwent a year of transition with Chatman taking over the program after coming over from Lovejoy High School. The team’s lone victory took place on Sept. 5 when they beat Chapel Hill, 27-7. The win snapped a 13-game losing streak dating back to Oct. 26, 2012.