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Sweet Water wins third straight football title

After a slow start, Sweet Water rode the strength of a 21-point second quarter to blast Speake 42-0 to win its third consecutive AHSAA, Class 1A state title and its fourth in the last five years.

“I think they just get sweeter,” head coach Stacy Luker said of his team’s win. “We try not to take what we’re doing for granted.”

The Bulldogs got off to a less-than-auspicious start.

After forcing a three-and-out to open the game, the Bulldogs muffed the punt return attempt, turning possession back over to the Bobcats at their own 46. The momentum swing injected even more energy into an already amped up Speake squad.

The Bobcats proceeded to assemble a nine-play drive that got as far as the SWHS 28 before senior Antonio Landrum batted a fourth down Cody Voss pass out of bounds to squelch the drive.

“I told our kids this morning that playing great defense and punting is not a bad thing in the championship game,” Luker said.

The Sweet Water offense took the field for the first time in the game with 5:52 remaining in the first quarter.

Still, the momentum remained squarely with Speake as the Bobcat defense limited the purple and gold attack to eight yards on its first three plays. The teams then exchanged punts, setting Sweet Water up at its own 19 following a block in the back call that negated a Landrum return.

“I told our kids this morning that playing great defense and punting is not a bad things in the championship game,” Luker said.

Sweet Water went with three straight runs by Johnny Lockett that totaled 18 yards before Jeremy Landrum erupted for a 61-yard gain that left the Bulldogs seven yards away from drawing first blood. One play later, Chris Landrum rumbled into the end zone to give SWHS the lead.

The point after attempt was good, leaving the Bulldogs up 7-0.

“We just feel like in these games, we’re going to wear them down eventually,” Luker said.

The ensuing kick set Speake up at its own 19 to open the second quarter. The Bobcats’ prospects of answering the score were short-lived as a Delano Brewer hit forced a fumble that found its way into the arms of Trae McIntosh.

Speake responded, holding Sweet Water to zero yards on three plays before blocking a Hunter Mayton field goal attempt.

However, the Bobcat drive never got started and the Speake was forced to punt from deep in its own territory. Antonio Landrum returned the kick to the Speake 19.

Two plays later, Lockett struck for the first of his three second-quarter touchdowns when he broke a 17-yard run to push the lead to two possessions with 6:30 remaining in the half. The extra-point put SWHS up 14-0.

“The defense set the tone with the big stop,” Lockett said of the sequence.

Speake got its best starting field position of the game after recovering an onside kick attempt at its own 47.

Four plays later, the Bobcats got as far as the Bulldog 40 before McIntosh pulled down Voss at midfield to force another punt.

Sweet Water then capped a five-play, 69-yard drive with a 45-yard run by Lockett. Mayton’s PAT was on target again, pushing the lead to 21-0 with 2:36 to go in the second quarter.

“The thing about Johnny having the ball in his hands, he’s always one step away from scoring,” Luker said.

The Bulldogs then forced another three-and-out to set up a one-play possession in which senior quarterback Damaraquis Williams connected with Lockett on a 36-yard touchdown pass. The point-after kick found its mark, stretching the lead to 28-0 at halftime.

“We had people like Tate (Luker) and Eric Hackworth that have been starting on offensive line for us for three and four years,” Stacy Luker said of the up-front experience that aided the Bulldog offense during the first half. “We got adjusted.”

Speake took its shot early in the second half when it attempted an onside kick to open the third quarter. The Bulldogs recovered it at their own 45. On the only play of the possession, Jeremy Landrum went 55 yards for a touchdown. Mayton’s fifth extra-point kick of the night sailed through the uprights, leaving the Bulldogs with the 35-0 advantage.

Speake answered with its most threatening drive of the afternoon when it marched 56 yards on eight plays and a Bulldog penalty to get all the way to the Sweet Water 24.

On the ninth play, Desmond Bouler ended the threat by picking off a Voss pass in the end zone.

Sweet Water rounded out the scoring by covering 66 yards in 11 plays and sending Williams over center for a one-yard touchdown run. Mayton’s sixth and final extra point was true, handing him the Super Six 1A record for most extra points in a championship game and leaving the Bulldogs up 42-0.

Lockett, a junior, earned the game’s Most Valuable Player honor after amassing 179 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and catching one pass for 36 yards and a touchdown to cap his totals at 215 yards from scrimmage on only 18 touches.

Jeremy Landrum added 118 yards and a touchdown on three carries while Chris Landrum ended his night 49 yards and a touchdown on only six carries.

Brewer led the defensive effort with 12 total tackles.

McIntosh, Cy Newton and Ryan Preston each finished with nine.

The win caps a 14-1 season for the Bulldogs, who saw their 36-game winning streak snapped on Oct. 31 against 2A Leroy.

“It motivated us to come to the playoffs and dominate,” Lockett said of the wake-up call the loss provided his team.