By Jeffery Armstrong
The Lovejoy Wildcats turned up the defensive intensity in the second half, holding the Mt. Zion Bulldogs to only 19 second-half yards and defeating the Bulldogs 28-13 Friday night in non-region action at Tara Stadium.
Lovejoy (2-0) overcame a poor first half to dominate the second half. The Lovejoy defense came up big after halftime and gave Wildcats' quarterback Kisan Flakes and running back Mark Pettaway the time to help Lovejoy score.
Both players responded as Flakes (4-of-11 for 68 yards, 1 TD pass, 49 yards rushing) and Pettaway (20 carries for 114 yards) took over the game in the third and fourth quarters.
"In the first half, we had too many turnovers and mental mistakes," said Flakes. "I told myself that if I have to scramble, I will. I also made my reads better in the second half."
The first half started well for both teams. On the Bulldogs' first drive of the game, Mt. Zion quarterback Emory Clark threw a pass to Maurice Leggett, who made a sweet move to avoid a tackle and outran everyone 57 yards later for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Lovejoy wasted little time answering the Bulldogs' score, as running back Aaron Williams scampered 15 yards for the tying touchdown on the Wildcats' ensuing possession.
The roof caved in for both teams after that. Lovejoy was penalized seven times for 59 yards in the first half, including three holding penalties and three offside penalties. Mt. Zion had three fumbles in the first half the second one was returned 30 yards by Lovejoy's Keith Fitzhugh for a touchdown. Pettaway made the 2-point conversion for a 15-7 Wildcats' lead.
Clark scored from 1-yard out and the two-point conversion was missed to bring Mt. Zion (0-1) within two at 15-13 at the half.
The Lovejoy defense held Mt. Zion to six possessions in the second half, while the offense scored 13 unanswered points. Flakes engineered two scoring drives to put the game away.
The senior QB showed great leadership in the third quarter, keeping a long drive alive with a 12-yard run and a 10-yard pass on consecutive third downs. Fitzhugh scored from 1-yard out and Flakes hit receiver Dennis Thomas with a 33-yard TD strike in the fourth quarter for the final points.
Pettaway rushed for 54 yards in the second half to help Flakes and the Wildcats.
"I think I was too tense in the first half," said Pettaway. "I knew we had to do better in the second half, so I calmed down half, read my blocks and ran well, thank God."
Lovejoy head coach Al Hughes was pleased with his team's performance.
"I'm very proud of the guys they played hard all night," said Hughes. "The defensive coaches made great adjustments in the second half and the defense stepped it up."
Senior Chris Coggins of Mt. Zion was all over the field for the Bulldogs, recording several tackles and making plays all night.