In just its third year of a full varsity schedule, Lanier is the team to beat in Region 8-AAAAA after the Longhorns scored a thrilling 26-23 win over defending champ Gainesville on Friday night.
Mason Harwood's 41-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner. After Gainesville rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 23 with 3:33 remaining, Lanier (6-0, 5-0) drove down to the 16-yard line before losing 8 yards and sending Harwood out for the 41-yarder.
Gainesville (4-2, 4-1) nearly struck back, but its best chance, a double-pass attempt, fell incomplete between two open receivers behind the Lanier secondary.
Holding a 20-9 halftime lead, the Longhorns chewed up nearly 10 minutes on two possessions in the third quarter thanks to a grinding running game led by Tario Fuller, who led all rushers with 141 yards on 32 carries. Harwood kicked 34-yard field goal with 1:13 remaining in the period to extend Lanier's lead to 23-9.
After falling behind in the first quarter, 9-0, Lanier took control before halftime, scoring three touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the second quarter. Fuller capped a 12-play, 69-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-inches. Standout defensive lineman Derrick Brown came through on the most pivotal play of the possession, running for 6 yards to convert a first down on a fake punt near midfield.
Brown's biggest play in a game full of them was yet to come. After Lanier took a 14-9 lead on a 28-yard pass from Tahj Tolbert to Timothy Leazer with 2:28 remaining in the half, Gainesville was driving into Lanier territory. But a screen pass glanced off the shoulder pads of the intended receiver and into the arms of Brown, who returned it 48 yards for the score, putting the Longhorns up 20-9 at the intermission.
Gainesville rallied in the fourth quarter, scoring with 10:48 remaining on a 4-yard run by Michael Byrd, and tying the game at 23 on a 24-yard pass from Mikey Gonzalez to Messiah Dorsey with 3:33 left.
Gonzalez finished 18 of 33 for 226 yards with two touchdown and one interception.
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