Photo by Jerry Jackson
Lovejoy defensive back Rico McWilliams walks to the sideline during the Wildcats' win over Mundy's Mill in a Region 4-AAAA game.
Lovejoy jumped out to an early lead and never looked back as it defeated the visiting Mundy’s Mill Tigers 35-7 in the season-opener Friday night at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
Playing host to a standing-room-only crowd, the Wildcats struck early. After penalties plagued the first four minutes of the opening quarter, Lovejoy had its first possesion of the game. Starting from the Tigers’ 43-yard line, junior quarterback Alejandro Bennifield took the first snap and launched a pass deep into the Tigers’ territory. Lovejoy’s senior wide receiver Rico McWilliams won the foot race and caught the ball diving into the end zone to score the Wildcats’ first touchdown of the night. Lovejoy converted the point-after attempt to take a 7-0 lead with 8:15 remaining in the first quarter.
The Tigers were quick to answer, returning the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for the touchdown. However, they were unable to convert the point-after attempt, leaving them trailing the Wildcats by one with 7:51 left in the opening quarter.
Lovejoy squandered their next two possessions, fumbling the first and throwing an interception on the second. Once again the Tigers were unable to capitalize on offense, going three-and-out on each possesion.
The Wildcats regained possession with less than a minute left in the first quarter. Junior tailback Travis Custis exploded up the middle for a 21-yard gain to end the quarter.
After an eight-yard completion from Bennifield to junior wide receiver JuMichael Ramos the Tigers committed another costly personal foul penalty, moving Lovejoy to the 18-yard line. Custis ran the ball on three consecutive plays, pushing through the Tigers defense on the third for a four-yard touchdown. The Wildcats converted the point-after attempt once again to extend their lead to 14-6 with 10:47 remaining in the second quarter.
After another three-and-out, Lovejoy had another promising possession that was cut short on a missed field goal attempt. The Wildcat defense responded with tenacity, forcing a fumble and sacking the quarterback on consecutive plays.
Lovejoy’s special teams came out strong and junior Kaylon White returned the punt to the seven-yard line. Custis ran the ball on three straight snaps, taking the third to the end zone on a two-yard run for his second touchdown of the quarter. The successful point-after attempt gave the Wildcats a commanding 21-6 lead going into halftime.
The Wildcats picked up where they left off at halftime, with Custis and senior running back Christian Hill splitting carries on the opening possession. Custis seemed to be on the verge of his third touchdown of the night after a three-yard blast through the middle but he was marked down at the one-yard line.
Bennifield surged through the middle on the next play and the Wildcats converted another point-after attempt to take a 28-6 lead with 7:15 left in the third quarter.
The rest of the third quarter yielded little for each team, as the Wildcats continued to run down the clock.
With time running out in the fourth quarter the Wildcats put together a 10-possession drive that included a timely conversion on fourth down. Hill fought his way past the Tiger defense and plunged into the end zone for Lovejoy’s fourth rushing touchdown of the day and fifth overall.
After another successful point-after attempt, Lovejoy had a 35-6 lead that would not change as the game wound to a close.