By Phil Albert
Luella scored 21 first-quarter points and withstood a late Peachtree Ridge rally for a 21-19 victory Friday night in the home season finale.
Luella remains unbeaten at 4-0 and sent its Fall Festival fans home happy as the Lions will end their season with three consecutive road contests.
Winning coach Paul Burgdorf remains concerned about his team's inability to play a consistant four quarters of football.
And with good reason.
The Lions took a 21-6 lead after the first quarter thanks to a strong running game and forcing Peachtree Ridge turnovers.
But in the second half, the visiting Lions took control with consistent long drives and big plays, keeping Luella's offense at bay.
"We hurt ourselves with penalties and Peachtree Ridge moved the ball when they had to," Burgdorf said. "We're young, but that's no excuse. I told the guys we're still not doing everything we have to for four quarters. It's part of our growing process."
Dominique Edwards had a strong game with 124 yards on the ground, over half the team's 240 yards in total offense. The host Lions amassed 232 yards on the ground.
But it was Peachtree Ridge's turnovers and missed extra points that also hurt the Suwanee team's efforts.
Luella took just 39 seconds to score the first points of the game.
Edwards raced 58 yards to the Peachtree Ridge 6 on the opening play of the game, before quarterback Christian Harris passed six yards to Devin West for the score. Brandon Arrington added the extra point.
Peachtree Ridge cut the margin to 7-6 on a 25-yard pass from Andy Weir to Zach Lombardo, but the extra point was blocked.
One play later, with 3:12 remaining, Luella was on the scoreboard again on a 35-yard sweep by Johnny Belt following a 61-yard kickoff return by Edwards.
Less than two minutes remaining, Luella finished its scoring on a 30-yard fumble return by Belt, who caught the loose ball and raced down the left sidelines for the score. The third Arrington extra point upped the lead to 21-6.
In the second quarter, Alan Dickey and Demario Fields ended Peachtree Ridge drives with fumble recoveries at the Luella 28 and 20 yard lines, the latter with one minute remaining in the half.
Luella gained 165 yards offensively in the first half, but it would be the defense that would be tested in the second half.
Peachtree Ridge scored on its first drive of the third quarter, with Ryan Brunatte scoring on an 11-yard run, capping a 67-yard drive. The two-point conversion was missed.
Early in the fourth quarter, Peachtree Ridge capped an 80-yard drive as Ryan Flanagan dove on a fumble in the end zone after a 24-yard run by teammate Brandon Bryson. The extra point was added, cutting the Luella lead to 21-19.
Peachtree Ridge successfully attempted an onside kick, but the visiting Lions could not move the ball.
Luella would control the ball nearly six minutes on nine plays before being stopped on downs at the Peachtree Ridge 31 with under four minutes remaining, but Peachtree Ridge was also stopped on downs on its final possession.
Burgdorf is anxious to see how his team plays on the road.
"We expect to play hard," he said. "We have to do things to our capabilities. I'm proud of their efforts."
Burgdorf credited the offensive line with creating holes for Edwards.
"Dominique is a hard runner and he hits the holes quickly," the coach said. "We started three freshmen on the offensive line. It was a quick learning process. Our youth showed, but it was a great effort."
At halftime, the Fall Festival Court was announced. Sarah Edwards was crowned Freshman Princess, Hannah Owen was named Sophomore Princess and Lacey Bearden and Sarah Christenson were named co-Junior Princess winners.