Photo by Jerry Jackson
A Creekside defender makes a tackle on Lovejoy running back Travis Custis during the eighth-ranked Wildcats’ 24-0 win Friday at Twelve Oaks Stadium, which clinched their second straight Region 4-AAAA title.
Travis Custis churned out a career- high 269 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries as the Lovejoy Wildcats defeated the Creekside Seminoles, 24-0, remaining undefeated and clinching the 4-AAAA region title.
It was a tale of two halves — the first, a defensive, hard-hitting battle with bone-jarring tackles such as Creekside corner and Auburn recruit, Josh Holsey’s hit which violently separated a Wildcat receiver from the ball. The Seminoles also used a goal line stand to keep Lovejoy out of the end zone as time expired in the first half.
But once Lovejoy figured out what the Creekside defense was doing to stymie its running game, momentum quickly swung in Lovejoy’s favor.
“Creekside showed us a front that we hadn’t seen them in and it caught us a bit off guard,” Lovejoy coach Al Hughes said. “But we made a few halftime adjustments in our blocking scheme and our kids executed well the rest of the way.”
Perhaps nobody executed better than Custis, who ran for 220 yards in the second half alone. On the very first Wildcat drive of the second half, Lovejoy started wearing down the Creekside defensive front, gaining 58 yards on nine straight rushing plays. However, a missed 18-yard field goal kept the game scoreless.
It was the Lovejoy defense — arguably the region’s best — which put up the first points when Veion Robinson tackled Holsey in the endzone for a safety after a mishandled shotgun snap.
On Lovejoy’s next drive, Custis went to work, repeatedly knifing through the heart of the Seminole defensive front with runs of 16 and 13 yards before punching it in from three yards out for the game’s first touchdown. The score put the Wildcats on top, 9-0, toward the end of the 3rd quarter.
Two Lovejoy possessions later, Custis ripped off runs of 14 and 35 yards – the latter with five Creekside defenders struggling to bring him down. After a false start penalty pushed the Wildcats back five yards, Custis struck again, taking an inside hand-off, side-stepping two would-be tacklers, and ducking under the grasp of a third on his way to a 29-yard score, extending Lovejoy’s lead to 16-0.
He punctuated what Coach Hughes said may have been a school-record rushing performance with a 44-yard touchdown scamper in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
The eighth-ranked Wildcats upped their record to 9-0 on the season, and by pitching its fourth straight shutout, showing it has a defense ready to make a deep run into the state playoffs.
“Our offense will win us a few games but it’s defense that’ll win championships,” said Hughes. “I think we’re peaking at the right time.”