STAUNTON — It was three years ago this month that Garrett Lawler was featured on ESPN Sportscenter for a touchdown he scored in a youth football game for Staunton.
On Friday night, Lawler came up with three more huge plays in the fourth quarter that helped Robert E. Lee rally for a 21-14 victory over visiting Rockbridge County.
It was just a one period earlier that Lawler was shaping up to be the goat. Trailing 14-7, an illegal block by Lawler negated a potential game-tying touchdown run by quarterback Jayden Williams. The Fighting Leemen had to punt it away three plays later.
After a defensive stop, Lee had another chance. On third-and-9, Lawler ran in from the 10 to draw his team even at 14-14 with 9:11 left in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats answered with a drive to the Lee High 11. On third down, Lawler sacked Rockbridge’s Ben Rhodenizer for a 15-yard loss. The Cats would then have to punt.
On the first offensive play from the 20, Lawler caught a screen pass from Williams and carried tacklers 55 yards to the Rockbridge 25. Williams would run it in on the next play, giving the Leemen at 21-14 advantage with 1:40 remaining. That would be the game-winner as the defense held from there.
“When I had the penalty that brought the touchdown back, I really thought I let my team down,” said the sophomore Lawler. “They told me to keep my head up and get it back, and that’s exactly what I did.”
Rockbridge used a pair of second quarter scores to build a 14-0 lead. Caleb Bryce Vandeveer recovered a teammates’ fumble in the end zone for one TD, while Triniti Stores got the other on a short run.
Lee finally got one back just before halftime on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Hurliq Williams to start the rally.
“In a position where your backs are against the wall and you’ve got to make a decision to take the easy road or make the hard right to fight your way back, our kids chose the right tonight,” said Lee High head coach Scott Girolmo, whose team is now 2-1. “It makes me very proud as a coach.They really got their nose down, got it bloodied and came out.”
ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY 0 14 0 0 — 14
ROBERT E. LEE 0 7 0 14 — 21
ROCK – Vandeveer fumble recovery in endzone (run failed)
ROCK – Stores 1 run (Rhodenizer run)
LEE – H. Williams 12 pass from J. Williams (McGrath kick)
LEE – Lawler 10 run (McGrath kick)
LEE – J. Williams 25 run (McGrath kick)