y Rory Sharrock
The performance on the field was ugly at times, but the final results on the scoreboard looked like a beauty queen.
Lovejoy (2-3, 2-2) erased the memories of a dismal three quarters of football and put together an unforgettable 14-point fourth quarter display to rally for a 20-19 victory over neighboring Mundy's Mill (0-5, 0-4) Friday night at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
"We were real fortunate," said Lovejoy head coach Al Hughes. "They did a great job on their side of the ball. They had their people ready to play. We made some mistakes, but our kids came back and I'm proud of them. I'm proud of these coaches. They stepped up at halftime and got after them."
The game looked bleak for the Wildcats, who were down 13-3 at the half and 13-6 at the end of the third quarter. However, it was all systems go in the final stanza, courtesy of the Lovejoy defense creating turnovers and key execution on the offensive side of the ball.
With Mundy's Mill up by a touchdown and 4:45 left on the clock, the scale tipped in Lovejoy's favor after Tigers' running back Tyler Mickens fumbled inside the opposition's territory.
On the ensuing play, offensive coordinator Craig Chatman called for trio left 99 quick pass and junior wide out D.J. Smith, who won the state title in the high jump last spring, used his 6-foot, 3-inch frame and superior leaping ability to give the defender an inside fake to snatch the ball out the air in the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard game-tying score.
"To be honest, we weren't doing so well in the first quarter, but we brought it together in the end," Smith said. "I'm glad we had the team brotherhood that we needed. We just worked together and pulled through. I just want to thank God for being alive as well as my mom and dad for helping through this and staying on track."
With the game locked at 13, Tigers' quarterback Jeff LeClerc forced the issue and threw right into the teeth of the Wildcats' cover-3 defense. His pass was picked off by Nick Smith, who raced 35 yards for the go-ahead score.
Despite two costly turnovers, Mundy's Mill managed to regroup and found a way to march downfield. LeClerc used his legs to pick up first downs and eventually connected with wide receiver Anthony Huff for a 25-yard touchdown strike with 56 seconds left in the contest.
But the Tigers botched the snap on the extra-point attempt and then were unable to complete a rushed pass for a two-point conversion, leading to their heart-breaking one-point loss.
"You have to finish the game and stay focused for four quarters. You can't take plays off. You can't take a moment to think about how good you've been. You have to stay hungry and we didn't do that," said Mundy's Mill head coach Dorwyn Lyles.