A great season with high desires and hopes for a state championship came to a close for the Westlake Lions Friday night in Leesburg.

For the third time in three years, the Lee County Trojans will be heading to the state championship after defeating the Lions 35-14.

#RobinsonStrong gave the Lions a daily reminder that their late Principle Jamar Robinson and his wife Annmarie are no longer there to cheer them on. Most importantly, it gave them more motivation to finish the season with a state title in Atlanta with the trophy and season being dedicated to them.

While the goal remained intact since the beginning of the season, the task Friday night included beating a tough Trojan team on the road who was also seeking a state title appearance after losing in the quarterfinals last season.

The task may have seemed tall but the Lions were up for it.

Both defenses started strong in this game as the first quarter resulted in no points on either side.

In the second quarter, both teams’ offenses became alive. First, it was the Trojans.

The powerful running attack proved to pay dividends for the Trojans. Running back and South Carolina commit Caleb McDowell cut back and burst into the endzone on an eight yard rushing touchdown early in the second quarter. The Trojans lead 7-0 with 11:30 to go.

Although the Trojans rarely throw, this time McDowell scored on the receiving end. Third down on the Lions seven-yard line resulted in McDowell catching a touchdown pass as he cruised into the endzone untouched giving the Trojans a 14 point lead.

A frustrated Lions defense knew that they needed to be better and rely on the offense to get them back in the game. A well-needed response by the Lions came as running back Corzavius Smart broke a couple of Trojans tackles before going untouched on a 74-yard touchdown run. This cut the Trojans lead to seven with 4:34 until halftime.

The Lions defense played off the momentum set by the offense forcing the Trojans to go three and out with two minutes to go in the quarter.

Lions tight end and Georgia Tech commit Leo Blackburn came alive in the Lions passing game, torching Trojans defensive backs to put the Lions deep in Trojan territory. On third and 13, Blackburn caught a touchdown pass from Lions quarterback RJ Johnson, tying the game at 14.

The score remained tied at 14 going into halftime as the Lions had the momentum scoring 14 unanswered points. The Lions felt the second half was theirs to lose since they had momentum and received the second-half kickoff.

Unfortunately, the Trojans defense adjusted and kept the Lions offense off the field, forcing a three and out.

McDowell gave the Lions defense a lot of problems on the Trojans’ first offensive drive of the second half. This time, the Lions defense seemed to have him stopped at the line of scrimmage but McDowell broke through the pile and raced down the sideline into the endzone for a 48-yard touchdown.

Seven minutes remained in the third quarter but the Lions did not panic.

Penalties and a sack put the Lions deep behind the sticks as they were unable to get a first down and had to punt.

Before the end of the third quarter, McDowell continued to do damage. This time scoring on a seven-yard rush, untouched. The Trojans led 28-14 with 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter and took that lead into the fourth.

The Lions offense tried to move the ball downfield but wasBy  unsuccessful on the drives. The fourth-quarter drives for the Lions resulted in a three and out and an interception.

A passing touchdown from Trojans quarterback Chauncey Magwood to receiver Tyrus Washington with 4:04 to go in the fourth iced the game as frustration and disappointment set in on the Lions sideline.

The final score was 35-14 and Trojans head coach Dean Fabrizio gave credit to his offense for dominating the time of possession.

“Our running game did a really great job tonight,” said Fabrizio. “We balled controlled and kept them [Westlake] off the field tonight.

“To be able to come back, refocus and take control on the third quarter like we did is a testament to our team and kids.”

McDowell finished the game with four touchdowns but gave credit to his offensive line and team focusing.

“We stayed focused, it was not the end,” said McDowell. “We have the best offensive line in the state.”

The Trojans will face Buford in the state championship at Center Parc Stadium on December 29 at 7 p.m.

Photo: Anfernee Patterson/The Atlanta Voice

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