By Derrick Mahone
Lovejoy coach Al Hughes admits that his offense did struggle at times, but he seems to take exception that his team's 28-14 victory over Banneker could be categorized as an ugly win.
"If winning is ugly, I'll take it," Hughes said. "I thought it was a good-looking win. Our offense did struggle, but that is something we have to grow into."
After Banneker tied the game at 14-14 in the fourth quarter, Lovejoy got two big defensive plays to seal the win at Twelve Oaks Stadium in a key Region 4-AAAA contest.
Wildcats defensive tackle David Washington ripped the ball out of Banneker quarterback Justin Henderson's hand. Cornerback Dushonta Broughton scooped the loose ball up and went 10 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 5:55 remaining.
On Banneker's ensuing possession, Henderson couldn't retrieve a low snap from the shotgun position. As he was trying to fall on the ball in the end zone for a safety, Washington pushed him away allowing teammate Darien Williams to get a touchdown.
Within a minute's span, Lovejoy took a 28-14 lead with 4:48 remaining in the game.
"I'm happy the way our defense played," said Washington, a highly-recruited senior prospect. "We leaned on some young players in the game, and they stepped up for us. The defense stepped up when it needed to make a big play."
The second defensive touchdown provided a scary moment for the Trojans as Henderson was injured on the play. Play was stopped for about 20 minutes before he was carted off the field with an ankle injury.
Lovejoy jumped to a 14-0 lead by scoring on its first two possessions of the game. The first score was a result of a blocked punt by the Wildcats, who improved to 4-0 overall and in Region 4-AAAA.
Lovejoy running back Ricky Grace scored on the second play of the drive with a 5-yard run for a 7-0 lead with 7:27 left in the opening quarter.
After stopping Banneker on the ensuing drive, Travis Custis capped a five-play, 49-yard drive with a 44-yard scoring reception from Vic Hardison for a 14-0 lead with eight seconds remaining in the first quarter.
From there, the Wildcats offense would not score again.
Banneker pulled to 14-6 on a 16-yard touchdown reception from Henderson with 22 second remaining in the second quarter.
Henderson scored the tying touchdown with 11:40 remaining in the fourth quarter with a 2-yard run, which he followed with two-point conversion run.
Banneker would get no closer as the Wildcats defense continued to apply the pressure.
"There is something about that Lovejoy magic," Hughes said. "The football gods smiled on us."
Lovejoy could only muster 161 yards of offense, 104 coming through the air. The Wildcats had a pair of second half fumbles that stopped drives.
Hughes credited the Banneker defense.
"They jumped up in our face and challenged us," Hughes said. "We didn't respond like I thought we would. I'm real surprised."
Banneker is in a rebuilding year with only seven seniors in the starting lineup after last season's playoff appearance.
"I tell you what, our boys played hard to be so young," Banneker coach Ed Gosa said. "We fought back after getting down. Lovejoy has a great team. I liked the way my kids played out there. Lovejoy is a program that you can't make mistakes against and expect to win. We had too many penalties."