The fact that Lakeside beat Baldwin 27-21 Friday at Panther Stadium was not the real shocker.
The surprise was how the Panthers achieved the homecoming victory over the Braves.
Lakeside, better known for its run-and-gun passing offense the past few seasons, beat Baldwin with only one pass completion and zero yards in the air. The Panthers didn't even attempt a pass in the second half.
Lakeside wasn't flashy, but the Panthers were winners, making the most of an opportunistic defense, a pair of touchdown runs by Brian Bratton and a timely fourth quarter interception by Robbie Rogers, a linebacker whose name is not even in the Lakeside program.
Bratton turned in some quarterbacking heroics via the ground, directing the Panther's option and also scoring two second half touchdowns, while Rogers and the rest of the Panther's linebacking corps were busy stoping the Braves' rushing attack. With the game tied at 21 in the final quarter, Rogers read a Baldwin screen perfectly, picking off a pass and returning it to the Baldwin 14 yard line.
"Our coaches anticipated it from the beginning," Rogers said. "When they lined up with a single back we knew it would either be a pass or a trap. Luckily I was in the right position to pick it off."
Bratton took it from there, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on an eight-yard run hurdling several Braves defenders on his way to the end zone.
"I saw Brian Johnson in front of me; he's the biggest guy on the field, so I ran behind him," Bratton said.
Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound sophomore, provided the block Bratton needed, and also gave Lakeside a lift in the first quarter. A 56-yard punt by Jesse Cousins, combined with a Baldwin clip, pinned the Braves on their own 10-yard line. From his defensive end spot, Johnson stormed in and broke up a Baldwin option, forcing a fumble -- he also recovered the ball. Then, moving to fullback on offense, he scored on a four-yard run.
The Panthers capitalized on their only possession of the third quarter, as Bratton took off on a quarterback keeper, racing 61 yards for a touchdown that tied the score. That set up Rogers' fourth quarter interception, which sealed the win. For Rogers, the key play was sweet redemption -- he opened the season as a member of the Augusta Christian football team, but had to leave the school after a rules violation. Rogers chose not to comment of the specifics, but after helping the Panthers break a three-game losing streak, the past didn't seem to matter.
"It was hard to fit in here at first, but Lakeside has great players and coaches, and the competition is great," Rogers said.
"Tonight we beat a team that beat Washington County. We won't get a big head about it. We're going to try and keep our mental focus."
Next: Lakeside at Central Macon, Friday, 8 p.m.
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