The Class 6-A quarterfinal matchup between the Westlake Lions and the Allatoona Buccaneers lived up to every bit of the hype Friday night at The Lions Den.

Two highly talented teams were hungry for a semifinal berth and they brought the energy and fans with them.

The Lions Den stayed energetic all night long from the fans to both sidelines.

As kickoff began, the Lions started off fast on offense. On the second play of the game, LSU commit and Lions receiver Nate “Big Play Nate” Wiggins broke through the Buccaneers defense on a jet sweep to go 76 yards to put the Lions on top.

They led 7-0 with 11:18 to go in the first quarter.

Allatoona cut into the lead with a field goal on their next offensive possession, trailing 7-3.

After the Buccaneers recovered the kickoff in which Westlake were unable to fall on, they had the chance to take the lead and put up points inside the Lions five. Instead, a fumble resulted in a Lions recovery halting a promising drive.

This set up the Lions with great momentum as they drove down the field to the Buccaneers two. On fourth and goal, the Lions decided to leave the kicker on the sidelines and go for it. Their gamble paid off as quarterback RJ Johnson plunged in for the touchdown. The extra point was no good making the score 13-3 with 9:32 left in the second quarter.

Another stop by the Lions defense gave Johnson and the deadly Lions offense another opportunity to put up points. This time, Johnson threw a beautiful 39-yard dime to Georgia Tech commit Leo Blackburn making the score 20-3 with 5:39 to go in the second.

All was not lost for the Buccaneers as they found a way to capitalize on points before going into halftime. They managed to get down to the Lions one s quarterback Elan Hall threw a perfect pass to receiver Troy Glenn for Allatoona’s first touchdown of the night. It was well needed for the Buccaneers as they went into the half trailing 20-10.

The third quarter featured stalemates from both offenses as neither team could get anything going.

Late in the quarter, Westlake was able to score first in the second half. This time, runningback Corzavious Smart kept his feet moving with Buccaneers defenders on him to convert on a two-yard rushing touchdown to put the Lions ahead by 17, tying their biggest lead of the night.

The Lions took this lead into the fourth quarter until the Buccaneers offense began to have answers.

Hall connected with Christain on a touchdown pass inside the Lions 20 cutting the Lions lead to 10.

The Buccaneers had luck on special teams again, recovering an onside kick which Lions coaches and players disagreed with. Either way, it was Allatoona’s ball and the momentum was on their side.

Buccaneers running back Dequari Garrett bust onto the scene making crucial plays for the offense. This time, he rushed in untouched from three yards out making the score 27-24 with 6:31 to go in regulation.

All the Buccaneers needed was a stop on defense to have a chance to complete their comeback. Instead, the Lions offensive line stepped up and killed the clock by running the football.

After Allatoona used all of their timeouts, setting up a fourth down for the Lions with two yards to go, this would have to be the time for them to get a stop on defense.

The Lions showed why they are one of the best offenses in the state of Georgia, this time putting receiver Dacari Collins in as quarterback and rushed forward for a long run to ice the game and kill the Buccaneers championship title hopes.

Lions fans, players, and coaches went crazy as Johnson took the final knee to run the clock to zero.

“It’s great to go to the semifinals,” said Lions head coach Bobby May. “We didn’t quit. We can get a lot better but I would rather get a lot better with a win.”

The Lions will now travel nearly three hours Lee County on the road next Friday for a chance to play for a state title at Georgia State’s Center-Parc Stadium.

Photo: Anfernee Patterson/The Atlanta Voice

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