By Doug Gorman
The Lovejoy Wildcats played with a split personality Friday night at Twelve Oaks Stadium in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs against Redan.
Entering as the No.-1 seed out of Region 4-AAAAA, the Wildcats looked unstoppable in the first half, then mistake-prone in the second half as they shot themselves in the football with two turnovers in the final two quarters.
The first 24 minutes of the contest was enough to propel the Wildcats into the second round next week with a 24-14 victory.
Lovejoy did all of its scoring in the first half and rolled up 156 yards of total offense in the first two quarters.
"We just didn't play very well after the first half," said Lovejoy coach Al Hughes. "We just couldn't get things going, and we made to many mistakes."
Lovejoy is the only remaining team left still standing in Henry or Clayton County. The Wildcats advance to play Houston County next week in the second round.
The Wildcats played the game without starting quarterback Mario Fannin, who was injured in last week's regular-season finale against Mundy's Mill.
Backup quarterback Ryan Williamson stepped it up in place of Fannin, and led the Wildcats on scoring drives on all four first- half series.
"We have all the confidence in the world in Ryan," said Hughes. "To step in for an injured quarterback in a first-round playoff game is a pressure situation, but he did a great job."
The Wildcats' defense stopped Redan on the first three plays of the game, forcing the Pirates to punt.
Lovejoy went to work and executed a 15-play, 62-yard drive for its first score of the game.
Octavius Edge ran the ball the final 3-yards of the drive for his first of two scores.
Lovejoy converted two fourth-down plays during the series, including a 14-yard scamper by Edge and a 12-yard quarterback keeper by Williamson to keep possession of the football.
Edge finished the game with 134 yards on 21 carries. He also played with plenty of inspiration.
"We knew we had to win this game for Mario," he said about the team's injured starting quarterback. "He got us here, so we wanted to make sure we stepped up as a team and kept winning."
The Wildcats made it 14-0 with 10:26 remaining in the second quarter when Williamson scored on a 2-yard quarterback keeper.
The big play of the drive came when Williamson connected with Keith Fitzhugh on a 17-yard pass.
Redan's next drive stalled when Bryant Edwards intercepted a Wayne Mantel pass and returned it down to the Pirates' 1.
After a penalty pushed the Wildcats back to the 6, Edge added his final TD of the game with touchdown run on the next play for a 21-0 lead.
With 2:31 remaining in the first half, Charles Pryor scored on a 1-yard run to Redan. The extra point missed, and Lovejoy led 21-6.
Maetias Ferreira, who hit all three extra points in the game, gave the Wildcats a big lift right before the end of the first half with a 41-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 24-6 lead.
Lovejoy and Redan both started the second half with turnovers to kill scoring drives. The Pirates fumbled the ball in the end zone and Lovejoy's Dale Gibson fell on the football to kill a Redan scoring drive.
The Pirates cut into the score with a late TD pass on their final drive of the game.