tom.mark@gaflnews.com



VALDOSTA -- The Tift County High Blue Devil football team continued to struggle in Region 1-AAAAA as the Devils dropped a 23-13 decision to the Lowndes High Vikings here Friday night at Martin Stadium.

The loss sealed the Devils' postseason fate as Tift is now eliminated from the playoffs. In order to have had a chance to qualify as one of the region's top four teams, Tift needed to win its final three games.

The Blue Devils close the regular season with Bainbridge and Lee County, both at home.

"We're playing for pride now," said Tift County head football coach Tommy Seward. "We've got to regroup and come back. We want to finish strong."

The Blue Devils (4-4, 1-4), after winning their first three games, have not won since defeating the Ware County Gators in the fifth game of the season.

Against the Vikings, Tift came out with an impressive first quarter offensive performance. Lowndes took the game's opening kickoff and marched 73 yards on 10 plays to take an early lead on a Darrin Richardson's six-yard dive.

But the Blue Devils answered with a 12-play drive scoring drive of their own. Facing third and 18 from the Lowndes 39, Tift's Josh Allen connected with Shamon Wright for the touchdown. Nick Green's PAT pulled the Devils even.

"That was our gameplan," Seward said, "to attack through the air."

Unfortunately for the Devils, the plan went slightly awry on their next possession. On another third and long situation deep in their own territory, a scrambling Allen dropped a pass into the hands of Vikings defensive back Brad Johnson, who returned the interception for a touchdown.

"That interception was big," Seward admitted.

Lowndes would stretch the lead to 16-7 when kicker Brad Robinson booted a 20-yard field goal with just under a minute to play in the half.

The Blue Devils came out for the second half sticking to the air, but it would not be enough. After punting away its first possession of the half, Tift was unable to stop the Lowndes attack as the Vikings scored midway through the third period. Lowndes quarterback Barrett Wilkes struck Demetrius Henry for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 6:17 showing.

The Blue Devils were able to score one more time following a Justin Deberry interception of a Wilkes pass late in the third. Starting on the Lowndes 36, it took Tift just seven plays before Allen hit Conorris Henley from 29 yards out.

Allen finished the night completing 12 of 19 passes for 164 yards. Freeman Stephens led the Lowndes offense rushing for 72 yards on 10 carries. Richardson added 68 yards on 13 attempts.



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