M.L. King found itself in a shootout on the football field for the fourth time in five games this season, but the Lions’ defense couldn’t slow down No. 7 ranked-Valdosta on Saturday at Hallford Stadium.
M.L. King (3-2) let an early 14-0 lead slip away and lost 43-28. After building the first-quarter lead, the Lions had an interception, fumble and a safety as Valdosta scored 29 unanswered points to lead 29-14 early in the third quarter. The two teams traded scores and Valdosta led 43-28 with 9:36 remaining in the game.
A penalty and a turnover on the Lions’ next drive sealed their fate. Quarterback Jonquel Dawson passed to Demarco Robinson for an apparent 68-yard touchdown on the first platy of the drive. The play was nullified by an illegal forward pass penalty as officials ruled Dawson was past the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball.
The Lions kept the drive alive when Dawson and Robinson connected on a 39-yard pass play on fourth-and-7 that moved the ball to the Valdosta 25. Five plays later, Valdosta recovered a Dawson fumble in the end zone as he tried to run in from the Valdosta 3. The Wildcats kept the ball until the final minute.
Robinson opened the game with a 93-yard kickoff return to give the Lions a 7-0 lead. Robinson scored again on an 18-yard pass play from Dawson for a 14-0 lead.
Dawson passed for more than 330 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. The junior quarterback has 18 touchdown passes and four interceptions in five games. Robinson also had a big night, with seven receptions for more than 100 yards.
The Lions used big plays to stay close to Valdosta in the second half. Blake Tibbs scored on a 68-yard pass play and Kevin Byard scored on an 81-yard pass play.
But the Lions’ defense could not keep up with Valdosta’s high-powered offense, led by top recruit Jay Rome. The senior tight end, who has more than 15 scholarship offers including Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Stanford. Rome caught two touchdown passes.
Valdosta quarterback Ryan Whilden passed for more than 330 yards with five touchdowns.