By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

LOVELADY – The Lovelady Lions defense had been tested all night long by the Joaquin Rams ground attack and appeared to be running on fumes as the game clock crept towards zero. With just over a minute left to play, the Rams scored a late TD to cut the lead to one and had a chance to either win the game on a two point conversion or kick the extra point and send the game into overtime.

The Rams decided to roll the dice and go for two. While they may have been gassed, the Lions had just enough left in the tank to make one last stand. When Joaquin cast the die, however, the Lovelady “D” made sure the roll came up snake eyes and stuffed the try for two.

The defensive stand kept the Lions in front by a score of 21-20, but the game wasn’t over just yet. The Rams were able to recover an onside kick and gave themselves one last chance to pull out the win. Lovelady’s defense had been re-energized by the stop on the conversion attempt and stonewalled any hopes Joaquin had of pulling out a last-minute comeback with four straight defensive stops to secure the home opening win by a final of 21-20.

AD/Head Coach Jon Lowery explained the way the contest unfolded. “We won the coin toss and deferred until the second half. Joaquin kept the ball about eight minutes on their first drive, but we were able to keep them out of the end zone. They’re a three yards and a cloud of dust, ground and pound style of team. When they only went two yards and a cloud of dust, we got the ball. It was a very physical type of game,” he said.

While the Rams’ won the time of possession battle with their ball control style of offense, the Lions drew first blood on an eight yard TD pass from Lovelady QB Lee Holsey to Devon Hammock.

On the ensuing possession, Joaquin was able to use its ground attack to methodically march down the field and tie the score at seven. The Lions, however, were able to go into the locker room at halftime with the lead, thanks to a 15 yard touchdown run from Tim Johnson with time running down in the second quarter.

Coach Lowery said, “It was 7-7 when we scored just before the half. On the extra point attempt, there was a low snap. Hunter Murray (the holder) didn’t feel like he could get it on the tee in time, so he scooped the ball up and was able to run around the right side of the line for the conversion. That made it 15-7 at halftime.”

The Lions opened the second half with possession of the ball, but the Rams put a stop to their plans of closing the first half with a score and opening the second half with another when they forced a Lovelady punt.

“Our defense was able to get a stop, we got the ball back and went down and scored to go up 21-7,” Lowery said.  “That score was a 45 yard pass from Lee Holsey to Hunter Murray.”

Up by two touchdowns and with the clock becoming a factor, the Rams showed they were not going to just roll over. Joaquin began to find a few running lanes and moved down the field to cut the lead to 21-14.

After the Rams forced Lovelady to punt on back-to-back possessions, Lowery commented, “We tightened up on defense as much as we could, but we had some untimely penalties when they were faced with long yardage situations. They scored their third touchdown with a little over a minute to go in the game and had a chance to go for the tie.  Joaquin decided to go for two instead of kicking the extra point and sending it in to overtime, but our defense stood up and held them out. The thing was, however, the game wasn’t over. They kicked an onside kick and got the ball back! Our defense stepped up again though and shut them down on four straight plays. From a spectator’s point of view, it was a very exciting game,” Lowery said.

The Lions hit the road this week for a game with the Leon Cougars in Jewett. The kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE MURRAY

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.