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Sidney Lanier’s Bozeman, interception party too wild for Russell County

Story by Kamarri Darrington | CASB Writer’s Club

Photos by Thomas Stabler | CAScoreboard Photographer

MONTGOMERY–It’s only October, but a first-half snowball kept going at Cramton Bowl.

Russell County quarterbacks just couldn’t stop throwing the ball to Sidney Lanier defenders and the Russell County defense couldn’t stop Lanier running back Tacaris Bozeman.

Despite a third-quarter rally which caused a scare, Russell County came up short in a 45-23 loss to Lanier.

The Poets (7-1, 4-1) picked off five passes from Warrior quarterbacks and returned three for touchdowns as Lanier won its fifth straight game.

Lanier defensive lineman Robert Collier was the first to find the end zone, grabbing a pass from Russell County’s Robert Calhoun and returning it 45 yards to give Lanier a 12-7 lead in the first quarter.

“I saw one of (Russell County’s) guys and two of mine,” Collier said. “I’m a lineman, so I wasn’t going to try to juke anyone. I just pushed the guy out of the way and took it in.” 

The pick-six party continued just before halftime. Lanier intercepted two passes in a 52-second clip–Jawan Baldwin for 95 yards and Brandon Jones for 40 yards–to push its lead to 38-7 at halftime. Lanier also had three sacks.

The Poets offense was led by Bozeman, who finished with 211 yards on 30 carries. Bozeman scored the game’s first points on a 68-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead. He added another in the second quarter on a seven-yard score for a 26-7 lead. Lanier quarterback Braylon Jones ended the scoring with a 1-yard run with 8:09 remaining in the fourth.

“I just come to the line with the mindset to follow my blockers and stay down,” Bozeman said. “I just find the hole and don’t look back as I run. We’re playing pretty good, but we’ve got to stay disciplined.”

The third quarter belonged to the Warriors (5-3, 2-3). It started with a 42-yard touchdown run from backup quarterback Dammuon Griffin, who started the second half after Robert Calhoun threw four first-half interceptions.

On the next Lanier possession, Russell County blocked a punt and AJ Black took it 30 yards for a score to cut the deficit to 38-21 with 9:21 left in the third quarter. The Warriors blocked another punt, but Griffin threw his only pick to Lanier’s Brian Moss and the comeback threat ended.

“We’ve been a second-half team all year,” Russell County coach Dillon Griggs said. “Lanier’s an elite team, and have to play well for four quarters against them. At halftime, I told the guys it was all about heart. We’ve got two games left and we can still make the playoffs. Hopefully, we can make it.”

Griffin did catch a 16-yard touchdown pass from Calhoun to give Russell County its only lead at 7-6 with 7:44 left in the first quarter. Griffin caught two passes for 72 yards and ran for 89 on 12 carries. Russell County finished with just 191 total yards.

Sidney Lanier head coach Marvin Cunningham said he’ll still use Thursday’s win as a teaching moment.

“I can’t think of the last time we’ve had two punts blocked,” Cunningham said. “We came out to start the third quarter just having bad habits. We were feeling around like we had the game. We’ve got to keep our focus, and it starts with how I get them prepared.”

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