Lovejoy wide receiver Preston Wiliams races into the end zone on a 95-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter in the second-ranked Wildcats win over Marietta Friday. (Special Photo: Jason Mussell)
HAMPTON - Preston Williams refused to let second-ranked Lovejoy go out in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs on Friday.
The junior wide receiver made plays throughout the contest at Twelve Oaks Stadium, but he may have saved his best for the closing seconds.
With the Wildcats trailing by two points with 58 seconds remaining, the 6-foot-5 wide receiver made some plays worthy of a highlight tape. After returning a kickoff to midfield, Williams caught a 47-yard touchdown pass over three Marietta defenders.
He went untouched in the end zone as Lovejoy escaped with a 27-23 win at the buzzer. Lovejoy will take on Lowndes next week in the second round of the playoffs.
“We are trying to win a state championship,” Williams said. “I’m going to keep doing this is the playoffs. I knew I had to do something because we were not going to lose in the first round of the playoffs. I’m just trying to stay humble. We worked too hard to lose in the first round of the plaayoffs.”
But it appeared that the Lovejoy was going to take an early exit from the postseason when Marietta kicker Ian Shannon booted a 40-yard field goal for a 23-21 lead with 1:09 remaining in the contest.
But Williams returned the ensuing kickoff to the Lovejoy 45-yard line to set up the game-winning drive.
On second down, quarterback Quintarius Neely fumbled, but tightend Randy Anywanu recorded, and the Wildcats spiked the ball to kill the clock.
Then on the next play, Neely threw to Williams, who was guarded by three Marietta defenders. After making the caught, the Blue Devils fell down as Williams coasted in the end zone from about seven yards out.
“I had all the faith in Preston,” Neely said. “He is my favorite receiver. He is a big playmaker.”
Lovejoy jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead on a pair of long touchdown receptions from Williams. Williams, who has committed to Tennessee, had a 32-yar reception for a score on the Wildcats’ first possession.
On the second possession of the game, Williams scored on a 66-yard catch at the Wildcats led 14-0 with 4:53 remaining.
Marietta would score 20 unanswered points to take a 20-14 lead into the intermission.
However, Lovejoy would regain control of the game on a 95-yard touchdown reception from Williams with 1:32 remaining in the third quarter.
After Neely threw his third interception of the game, Marietta would retake the lead at 23-21 on Shannon’s field goal.
Lovejoy offensive coordinator Craig Chatman said the team stuff with Neely despite his struggles with the interceptions.
“We made the decision to go with him, and it worked,” Chatman said. “I’ve been in that situation before, but Quintarius did a great job.”