The Lithonia Bulldogs concluded an improbable run to the Trail to the Title middle school football championship with a 12-8 victory over defending champion Stephenson Jaguars.
The Lithonia Bulldogs concluded an improbable run to the Trail to the Title middle school football championship with a 12-8 victory over defending champion Stephenson Jaguars.A big fourth-and-goal stop of Stephenson quarterback Xavier Shepard by the Lithonia defense with the Jaguars threatening to score the winning touchdown inside the Lithonia 10 with less than two minutes to play put the finishing touches on the Bulldogs’ 12-8 championship victory.Lithonia (8-2) opened the title game by taking the opening possession and driving 63 yards in 12 plays culminating with a two-yard touchdown run by Kamrie Mullins with 3:32 remaining in the first quarter. The two-point conversion was no good and the lead stood at 6-0 in favor of Lithonia.The defending champion Jaguars (8-2) drove to the Lithonia 19-yard line where the drive stalled on downs when Lithonia’s Addison Ford stopped Shepard for a loss.Stephenson defensive lineman Khalil Robinson stepped up on Lithonia’s next drive after Lithonia running backs Courtney Lott and Deonte Jones had first down runs of 12 and 13 yards, respectively. Robinson had a tackle for a loss on third down and then was the lead tackler on the stop of Lithonia’s fake punt attempt to force the turnover on downs.The Jaguars drove into Lithonia territory again mostly on the back of a 26-yard pass play from Shepard to Eric Ross. The drive came up short of a score as a pair of penalties and an incomplete pass lead to a turnover on downs. Lithonia then ran out the rest of the first half to take the 6-0 lead into the locker room.Stephenson opened the second half riding the arm of Shepard as he connected for two first downs to Keiontay Davis and then a 15-yard completion to Tariq Ricks setting up a first down at the Lithonia 11.Shepard ran it in from 11 yards out, but a holding penalty nullified the touchdown.Lithonia gave the Jaguars new life as a roughing the passer call on fourth down set the Jaguars up at the Bulldog six. Big Jaguar fullback Edwin Baker went the final six yards for the touchdown and then tacked on the two-point conversion to give Stephenson an 8-6 lead with the third quarter winding down.The Bulldogs went back to the run using Lott, Mullins and Jones driving to the Stephenson 19 with just over five minutes to play. Lott, the game’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) with 76 yards rushing on nine attempts, finished off the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run to give Lithonia the 12-8 advantage with less than five minutes to play in the game.Following the kickoff, the Jaguars went back to the running game with Baker and Shephard driving to the Lithonia 11 as the clock ticked under two minutes.Lithonia’s defense then stood its ground forcing a loss, an incomplete pass, a no gain and then the big stop on Shepard to seal the victory.Stephenson’s Khalil Robinson, who played a key role in stopping a potential scoring drive for the Bulldogs to take a two score lead was named the game’s Defensive MVP.The Bulldogs, the No. 3 seed from Region 3, reached the finals for just the second time in the eight-year history of the Trail to the Title playoffs. Lithonia defeated Tucker 28-12 in the opening round, Cedar Grove 26-6 in the second round and Salem 32-20 in the semifinals in advancing to the title game. The Bulldogs’ first title appearance was a 28-12 loss to Avondale in the 2007 title game.