Photos by Jerry Jackson
Lovejoy running back Travis Custis looks for some running room in the Wildcats’ 51-13 win over Tri-Cities in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
HAMPTON — Ranked No. 7 in the state, the Lovejoy Wildcats have been seldom challenged this season. That trend continued Friday night at Twelve Oaks Stadium, as Lovejoy rolled to a 51-13 win over Tri-Cities in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
The Wildcats now have won their past seven games by 38 points or more.
“We’re playing good football right now,” said Lovejoy head coach Al Hughes. “Everybody seems to be playing together as a team. No one individual [has been leading the way], although we’ve got some good individual performances.”
Lovejoy (10-1) scored in all three phases of the game and Travis Custis had a standout individual performance with 13 carries for 121 yards and four touchdowns.
Custis’ first touchdown, a 1-yard run, was set up by an Alejandro Bennifield 35-yard pass to JuMichael Ramos. That score put Lovejoy up 7-0 at the 6:48 mark of the first quarter. Less than three minutes later, Custis was into the end zone from 7 yards to give the Wildcats a 14-0 advantage.
Brandon Davis joined Custis in a standout role, first taking an interception away from a teammate before taking it back 90 yards for the defensive score and 21-0 lead. After a Tri-Cities bad snap on a punt led to a safety, and Custis’ third touchdown (a 6-yarder), Davis added a special-teams score. He caught a blocked Tri-Cities field goal attempt and was escorted 85 yards to the end zone for a touchdown and 37-0 halftime lead.
While the defensive and special-teams scores, as well as the big halftime lead were bright spots for Lovejoy, they also contributed to one of Hughes’ ongoing concerns — offensive repetitions.
“By the end of the second quarter, we pretty much have to take the starters out,” Hughes said. “We haven’t played a full game in quite a while.”
Hughes left his starters in into the second half to give them more snaps. Custis finished his scoring, taking it in from 31 yards out with 33 seconds left in the third quarter, and Jared Smith fell on a bad Tri-Cities snap in the end for the final Lovejoy points in the fourth.
Tri-Cities (4-7), which concluded its season losing six of its last eight games, got a 1-yard touchdown run from Charles Middlebrooks to start the second half. That and an 84-yard touchdown pass from Demetrius McClendon to LeeAndre Mitchell accounted for their only points. The Bulldogs were ninth team that the Wildcats have played this year that finished the regular season with a non-winning record.
The competition for Lovejoy now gets stiffer. The Wildcats will host Marietta (8-3), which upset Lowndes, in the second round.
“Traditionally [they] are strong,” Hughes said. “We never played Marietta before. We feel good about getting a chance to compete with them.”