Photo by Jerry Jackson
Lovejoy running back Travis Custis had a monster performance to lead the Wildcats over North Cobb to advance to the Class AAAAAA title game.
HAMPTON — Having defeated prolific passing offenses during their playoff run, the Lovejoy Wildcats were quite familiar with wide-open spread teams. Lovejoy played just enough defense and brought plenty of offense in its 63-42 Dome-clinching win over North Cobb at Twelve Oaks Stadium on Friday. The Wildcats will now play Norcross next Saturday night for the Class AAAAAA championship.
“I hope we can go in there and do what we do best and come out of there with a ring,” said Lovejoy cornerback Brandon Davis. “We still got unfinished business. We got one more game to go.”
Two interceptions returned for touchdowns by the Lovejoy defense and 290 yards rushing and five touchdowns from Travis Custis were key factors in Lovejoy (13-1) coming back from 14 points down in the second quarter. The rally started just when it looked like North Cobb (11-3) was about to put its foot on the Wildcats’ throat.
Leading 21-7 midway through the second quarter, North Cobb had the ball at the Lovejoy 25-yard line, but a Cinwon Whitehead interception turned the ball back over to Lovejoy. Three plays later, Custis was off to the races for 63 yards and his second rushing touchdown to get the Wildcats within seven.
Faced with a fourth-and-5, Alejandro Bennifield connected with JuMichael Ramos for a 24-yard touchdown to tie the score at 21 with 2:32 remaining in the first half. That’s when Lovejoy’s defense did what it has done so well this year: Turn defense into offense. Davis picked off a Tyler Queen pass and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown to give Lovejoy its first lead.
The Wildcats kept up that theme exiting halftime. This time it was Montrell Custis intercepting Queen and taking it 60 yards for the score. “My defensive line help me out,” Montrell said. “I just tried to do my job and stay on my man.”
“We drill that in practice,” said Lovejoy defensive coordinator Kevin Jones. “That’s standing operating procedure for us. When we get an interception in practice, we practice scoring. I expected our guys to do that.”
North Cobb got to within 35-28 on a Queen pass to Nick Miller on a blown assignment, but Lovejoy would go on to score the next 21 points — a 40-yard touchdown pass from Bennifield to Davis and runs of 28 and 26 yards by Custis. Bennifield finished the game 11 of 16 for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
North Cobb never stopped fighting, as J’Vonte Herrod scored on an 8-yard touchdown with 9:58 left in the game to trim the Wildcats’ lead to 56-35. But, Custis never stopped fighting also, as he often ran through and over Warrior tacklers. He ended his touchdown onslaught with a 22-yard run.
“Coach told me in the pregame that [they were counting on me],” said Travis. “I pictured that I could carry my team back and that’s what I did.”
The 42 points were the most scored against Lovejoy all season and North Cobb scored exactly 42 for the fourth straight playoff game. But this time, it wasn’t enough for the Warriors to advance.