Russell County coach Dwight Jones fell to his knees in frustration.
His defense was a play away from forcing Lanier to turn the ball over on downs at the Warriors’ 11-yard line with less than a minute to go in the first half.
Jones’ defense played well through the first 24 minutes despite spending the majority of the half on the field.
Going into break having held Lanier to two scores would have given a Russell County team looking to end a 25-game losing streak an emotional lift.
It wasn’t meant to be as Lanier quarterback James Foster hit a wide-open Da’Coreyon Johnson in the end zone for the score. The duo accounted for all three of their team’s first half touchdowns and would add a fourth late in the game.
Foster finished the game 12 of 24 for 141 yards with five touchdowns. Johnson had six receptions for 67 yards with four scores.
“We didn’t play with a whole lot of emotion in the first half and when you aren’t real athletic you have to throw everything you have against them,” Jones said. “We didn’t do that.”
After scoring on a quick, six-play, 40-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter, Lanier had the benefit of a 28-0 head start when a series of errors briefly opened the door for a Russell County comeback.
A personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Lanier’s put Russell County inside the 10-yard line where Jalen Mitchell scored from three yards out. Lanier fumbled the ensuing kickoff with the ball taking an unlikely bounce off a defender to give Russell County possession back at the goal line.
Corey Person scored three players later to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
Russell County’s defense forced Lanier to punt adding to the momentum, but the good vibes vanished when Marcus Cole picked off quarterback Keyshawn Stevenson at midfield, returning the interception 46-yards for a touchdown.
“You just don’t want to quit and that’s what we keep saying — keep fighting, keep fighting” Jones said. “We didn’t quit. We gave up two late, but everybody contributed.”
Russell County struggled on the offensive side of the ball for much of the night with all three of its first downs in the opening half coming on a single drive.
Stevenson completed three straight passes to get Russell County down to Lanier’s 2-yard line. The offense went backwards from there with Lanier tackling Diondre Crawford behind the line of scrimmage on first and second down.
Russell County turned the ball over on downs after Stevenson had to throw it out of the back of the end zone on fourth down. Stephenson finished the night 5 of 12 for 75 yards with an interception.
Key Play: Marcus Cole’s late interception righted the ship for Lanier.
Russell County needed to drive down the length of the field if it wanted to make it a one-possession game. With the Warriors facing a third and long, quarterback Keyshawn Stevenson was trying to make something happen with pressure in his face.
Cole put an exclamation point on the play by returning it 46 yards for a touchdown. The defensive back weaved his way in and out of traffic to go untouched to the end zone.
Difference makers: James Foster, Lanier, quarterback — Foster is the 10th ranked 2018 prospect in Alabama according to 247 Sports. The dual-threat quarterback with offers from power five programs including Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee made the throws he needed to help Lanier get the win. Russell County did a nice job of bottling up the run, but Foster was a calm presence in the pocket. He showed great chemistry with his receivers putting throws where they needed to be despite solid coverage.
Individual stats: James Foster, Lanier, quarterback, 12 of 24, 141 yards, 5 TDs; Da’Coreyon Johnson, Lanier, wide receiver, 6 receptions, 4 TDs; Keyshawn Stevenson, Russell County, quarterback, 5 of 12, 75 yards, 1 INT
Coach quote: “We scared them a little bit, we just have to keep getting better.” Russell County coach Dwight Jones
Player quote: “We seemed kind of dead in the first half. I don’t know why. In the second half we came out fired up and ready to go. We just got to keep fighting.” Russell County running back Corey Person
Friday at Russell County High School
Lanier — 6-14-8-14-42
Russell County — 0-0-14-0-14
L – Da’Coreyon Johnson 9 pass from James Foster (William Mahone kick failed), 6:40
L – Johnson 11 pass from Foster (two-point conversion), 11:23
L – Johnson 11 pass from Foster (Mahone kick failed), 0:35
L – Antwan Burnett 1 yard from Foster (two-point conversion), 7:30
R – Jalen Mitchell 3 run (Carlons San Pedro kick), 3:00
R – Corey Person 9 run (Pedro kick), 1:56
L - Marcus Cole 46 interception (two-point conversion), 8:32
L – Johnson 22 pass from Foster (Mahone kick failed), 0:22