DULUTH — Duluth hung tough with visiting Lambert as the football teams were tied late in the third quarter at Cecil Morris Field on Friday night. Depth and errors eventually caught up to the Wildcats as the Longhorns prevailed 26-10.
“We knew coming in that they (Lambert) were a well-coached and deep football team,” Duluth head coach Cam Jones said. “Our defense played great. They made two big stops, but late in the game they were worn down on this humid night. The third component of this game is special teams and we didn’t execute at all in that area.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Lambert (4-0) received the first break of the game when Duluth muffed a punt return and Lambert’s Jack Wise recovered the ball on the Wildcats’ 14. The Longhorns drove to the one yard line where they faced a fourth-and-goal. Lambert coach Tommy Watson elected to try a field goal but the 18 yard attempt by Max Chapa Ponce was no good.
Duluth (1-1) seized on the momentum of the stop and strung together an 11 play drive which moved the Wildcats to the Lambert 7. However the drive stalled there and Sahil Punwani connected on a 24-yard field goal to put the hosts up 3-0 with 3:27 left in the half.
The Duluth defense then held Lambert to a three and out, however another Duluth muff on a punt return was recovered by the Longhorns Darren Guy on the Wildcats’ 39. Lambert quarter back Ashton Smith hit Kojo Antwi with a hitch pattern and Antwi rambled for a 20 yard gain. Smith then ran for 15 more yards on a draw to the four. After a run netted no gain, Smith connected with Braden Bamburowski on a sliding reception in the end zone. Alex Mitchell converted the extra point and Lambert held a 7-3 lead heading into halftime.
Duluth’s Lonnie Ratliff IV was 8-for-14 in the first half for 70 yards while Nyle Ervin led the rushing attack with 49 yards.
The second half started with promise for Duluth as on its first play from scrimmage Ratliff IV hit Jaiden Jones with a short pass and Jones raced 74 yards for the touchdown. Punwani’s extra point gave Duluth a 10-7 lead only 20 seconds into the third quarter.
The Wildcats held the Longhorns to a three and out, but for the third time on the evening Duluth failed to catch the punt cleanly, giving Lambert new life. Starting on the Duluth 29, the drive resulted in a Mitchell 20-yard field goal to tie the score at 10.
Another special teams error gave Lambert the go ahead touchdown late in the third quarter. Duluth failed to gain a first down deep in its territory and Ratliff IV attempted a punt. However the ball went off the side of his foot and was caught and returned to the Wildcats 14. On the next play, Robert Riddle raced around the defense and scored untouched.
With a 17-10 deficit, Duluth attempted to drive but consecutive sacks of Ratliff IV ended the threat. Lambert iced the game with another connection from Smith to Bamburowski, this time from 21 yards and added a late safety to post the winning margin.
LAMBERT 26, DULUTH 10
Lambert 0 7 10 9 – 26
Duluth 0 3 7 0 – 10
Duluth: Sahil Punwani 24 FG, 3:27
Lambert: Braden Bamburowski 4 pass from Ashton Smith (Alex Mitchell kick) :41
Duluth: Jaiden Jones 74 pass from Lonnie Ratliff IV (Punwani kick) 11:40
Lambert: Mitchell 20 FG, 9:19
Lambert: Robert Riddle 14 run (Mitchell kick) 1:07
Lambert: Bamburowski 21 pass from Smith (Mitchell kick) 7:26
Lambert: Duluth’s Nyle Ervin tackled in end zone for safety 6:41