By Derrick Mahone
FAIRBURN-- Friday's Lovejoy-Creekside game was throwback to the days when teams relied on hard-nose defense and a pounding running game.
Lovejoy mustered enough offense as the ninth-ranked Wildcats defeated Creekside 18-15 at Arrowhead Stadium in Fairburn for the Region 4-AAAA championship.
"It was a great football game between two great football teams," Lovejoy coach Al Hughes said. "These two teams will represent the region well in the playoffs."
Said Lovejoy senior quarterback Vic Hardison: "We knew from Day 1 that our main focus was winning this region. We wanted to win the region and then concentrate on the state playoffs."
The Wildcats offense amassed 259 yards, 177 coming on the ground for the win to improve to 9-0 overall and in the region. Regardless of next week's outcome against Riverdale, Lovejoy owns the region's top seed in the playoffs and gets to host at least a first round playoff game.
Sophomore running back Travis Custis rushed for 90 yards on 17 carries and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 25-yard run with 5:40 remaining in the contest. The touchdown came after the Wildcats twice came up empty after going for it on fourth down inside Creekside's 26-yard line.
However, Lovejoy's defense was able to hold to give the Wildcats the ball back. Creekside was held to 146 yards of offense and only seven first downs. Junior cornerback Jermaine Hough had two interceptions in the game.
Hardison was pleased the defense was able to come through.
"This is why football is the greatest team sport that has been created," said Hardison, who was 6 of 16 for 72 yards with two interceptions. "The defense came and showed up tonight. The offense didn't drive the ball as well, but the defense really kept them out of the end zone. We only gave up basically one touchdown."
"I was hoping that our defense would be up for it," Hughes said. "I knew theirs would be. It was a big night for both defenses and their kids played really hard. We have been saying all along that he (Hough) is a great one. He made us proud tonight."
Creekside had one last drive to tie or take the lead, but an incomplete pass on a fourth-and-15 play from its own 35-yard line ended the game. The Seminoles, who dropped to 7-2 overall and in the region, led for most of the contest.
The Wildcats jumped to a 2-0 lead when they got a safety after Creekside's punter fell on the ball during the game's opening drive. A 45-yard interception by Seminoles defensive back Anthony Farley gave
them a 6-2 lead. Creekside would extend the lead to 13-2 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Rodney Garvin as time expired in the first quarter.
Lovejoy would start to chip away at the lead in second quarter as they trailed 13-11 at the intermission.
Next week, Creekside travels to Southern Crescent Stadium to take on North Clayton with the winner clinching the region's No. 2 seed and a first round home playoff game. Seminoles coach Johnny White said his team should be up to the task.
"This was a good game with both defenses playing well," White said. "You definitely want to be at home for the playoffs. We just have to be ready go on Friday."