Raiders run away from Lions

Published 1:02 pm Monday, November 13, 2023

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By Colton Taunton



AMERICUS – An early defensive struggle gave way to a rout Friday evening at Harvey-Simpson Stadium. The Southland Academy Raiders bested the Lakeview Academy Lions (Gainesville, GA) in the first round of the GIAA 3AAA playoffs by a score of 35-14.

The Raiders got out to an early lead 7-0 in the first quarter thanks to recovering a game-opening onside kick. It didn’t take long for quarterback Banks Simmons to find Trey Sellers on a deep crossing route that came within inches of the game’s first score. Simmons called his own number on the next play from scrimmage and snuck into the end zone for the touchdown.

The Lions managed to put together a methodical touchdown drive to end the first half and tie things up at 7. Outside of that, the second quarter was mostly a stalemate as both teams traded turnovers and punts. The Raiders hurt themselves with a few penalties and miscues that kept them backed up in their own territory for most of the first half.

Southland Academy senior tight end Will Godwin reaches up to catch a pass against Lakeview Academy.
Photo by Colton Taunton

The second half was a completely different story. According to Coach Rod Murray, this was no accident. “Our coaching staff and players made some great adjustments, especially on the line of scrimmage in the second half.” Both offensively and defensively, the Raiders put up big play after big play following halftime. The third quarter opened with linebacker Ethan Beck recovering a fumble inside Lions territory. Banks Simmons used his legs to find the end zone for the second time on the night, putting the Raiders up 14-7. It wasn’t long before the Raiders got their hands back on the ball and displayed some offensive fireworks. Senior tight end Will Godwin hauled in a pass from Simmons for 81 yards. He was pulled down a few yards shy of the end zone, but running back Luke Tarrer finished off the drive in style. Taking a hand-off up the middle, Tarrer rumbled through multiple defenders and put the Raiders on top by two scores.

The Southland defense continued to cause havoc in the 4th quarter. Will Godwin and

Ethan Beck caused a fumble on the ensuing Lakeview drive that was recovered by Cooper Boren. Boren and Beck were both incredibly active at linebacker all night for the Raiders, both having a hand in multiple turnovers. After the fumble recovery, Mac McMichael scored on a screen pass from 42 yards out to give the Raiders a 28-7 lead in the 4th. Even though he didn’t find the end zone tonight, it’s worth noting that running back Trey Sellers was a workhorse for the Raiders offense. He finished the night with 143 yards on 17 total touches from the backfield.

Not to be outshined, the Raider defense had one more big play up their sleeves late in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Turner Simmons caused a fumble that led to a scoop-n-score by defensive back Fisher Britt.

Reflecting on the win, Coach Murray was both joyful and grounded. “We played a good football team tonight, and they showed a lot of heart. We’re thankful to be 1-0 in the playoffs,

and we’re excited about the win tonight because winning on Friday nights isn’t easy to do.” The Raiders will travel to Valdosta to take on the Valwood Valiants next Friday night in the second round of the GIAA Class AAA State Playoffs.