By Derrick Mahone
For Lovejoy quarterback Vic Hardison and wide receiver Rico McWilliams, Friday reminded them of their youth football days.
The two seniors did a good job of playing pass and catch against Mount Zion at Twelve Oaks Stadium. With Hardison and McWilliams supplying most of the offensive firepower in the first half, the Wildcats defeated Mount Zion 29-20 in a key Region 4-AAAA contest that give them sole possession of first place.
Hardison connected with McWilliams on two first-half touchdown passes in the win. McWilliams scored another touchdown on a fumble recovery and Hardison added the final score on a 1-yard run in the third quarter.
"He was my No. 1 receiver when we played together at the park," said Hardison, who finished with 89 yards passing. "The chemistry has came back. We stayed after practice working on improving. As you can see, it paid off in the game."
After going up 23-0 in the first half, Mount Zion pulled to 29-14 early in the fourth quarter. Sophomore quarterback Montel Buchanan connected with Joseph Porter on a pair of second-half pass play for scores.
The Bulldogs, who dropped to 5-1 overall and in the region, trailed 29-14 with 10:15 remaining. Lovejoy is now the only undefeated team in Region 4-AAAA with a 6-0 record.
The Wildcats jumped to a 9-0 lead midway through the first quarter on a 13-yard pass Hardison to McWilliams with 6:19 remaining. On the Bulldogs ensuing possession, a bad snap forced quarterback Montel Buchanan to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone.
"They are an optimistic team that take advantage of their opportunities," Aull said. "They are very sound."
Lovejoy coach Al Hughes was impressed with Mount Zion's comeback effort.
"It was a great game for both schools," Hughes said. "I tell you what, Mount Zion battled hard. Both teams showed great character."
The Bulldogs played the majority of the game with standout running back Quartterrio Morgan, who left in the second quarter with a finger and leg injury. He finished the game with three carries for nine yards and one reception for five yards.
"Losing him hurts because we feed off him and he feeds off us," said Mount Zion wide receiver Austin Smith, who had a 91-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth quarter.
Smith's touchdown with 7:56 remaining pulled the Bulldogs to within 29-10. Mount Zion's missed on two fourth-quarter scoring drives late in the fourth as their rally fell short.
Still, coach Jamie Aull was pleased that his team didn't quit after being down 23-0 at the intermission.
"They stuck together and believed, and we made a game out of it at least," Aull said. "We spotted them 23 in the first half and that was hard to come back from. I am proud that my kids kept fighting. I don't know if my team last year would have kept fighting."
Aull wasn't sure of Morgan's status for next week's showdown with North Clayton at Southern Crescent Stadium.
"When you lose some marquee players like that it changes the directions that you are going in," Hughes said. "You have to figure out a few things to do on the run."