Lovelady Lions Seek a Repeat of Last Year’s Success
By Will Johnson
LOVELADY – The Lovelady Lions 2015 season ended in Georgetown, one game away from playing for the Class 2A State Championship. Hearts were broken and tears were shed, but it gave the Lions a taste of rarified air they were unaccustomed to breathing.
That taste and the fact they could have won the State Semifinal game against Refugio, may propel the Lions to even greater things in 2016. While they lost Coach Kerry Therwanger to Timpson, as well as several key contributors on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, the Lions are still ranked as a preseason top 10 team.
After Coach Therwanger left for Timpson, Coach Jon Lowery was promoted to the AD’s spot and takes over a program that still has plenty of weapons at its disposal.
Even with a bevy of returning talent, the Lions will still have a tough road to traverse as they wind their way through the season. “We have an extra week before our season kicks off (due to a week one bye) and with a new offensive coordinator and a new defensive coordinator, we will need that extra week of preparation. We start off with Anderson-Shiro and Joaquin. Joaquin is going to be a playoff team, while Anderson-Shiro went up to Class 3A. Leon is also in Class 3A and they will be a handful. Our fourth game – in week five – we play Timpson and Coach Therwanger. For our kids to go over there and face Coach Therwanger, I expect that game will have a playoff-type atmosphere. Coach T gave his very best to Lovelady, but he likes to win.”
After a week off following the Timpson game, the Lions begin district play. They will open district with a homecoming game against West Sabine, travel to Deweyville the next week and then return home to take on Centerville. After a road game against West Hardin, the Lions close out the district schedule against the Groveton Indians.
“Groveton has been a big rival for us in the past and I guess as fate would have it, the last home game of the year is against Groveton. For that last game to be against them and for it to determine playoff seeding – we’ve just got one exciting game after another. We’re looking forward to it,” the coach said.
While the Lions lost several key contributors from last year to graduation, Coach Lowery commented, “The good thing is, everyone that we thought would be back has been out there at practice. We have six returning starters on offense and five on defense. The skill players we have coming back at the receiver’s position include Hunter Murray and Petey Little. Those guys were an integral part of our offense last year.”
Lee Holsey will return as quarterback and has looked sharp during practice and in the team’s first scrimmage. “Last year, he threw for almost 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also rushed for another 350 yards. Lee, along with Hunter and Petey have started 27 games for us. Those three guys are the ones we look to for leadership on the offensive side of the ball,” Lowery explained.
As to who will join Holsey in the backfield, the coach said, “We’re still looking at several different kids at the running back position. One of those who is looking really good is Ethan Campbell. He started for us on defense last year and if he takes over in the backfield, then we’ll probably have to find someone to take his defensive spot.
Other seniors on the offense include Devon Hammock, Treyton Wilson and Lane Jones. Up front, the line will feature Blake Johnson, Brandon Gearhart, Daniel Cook and Da’Mario Mattingly.
“We are a senior laden team and as of right now, it looks like we’ll have nine seniors starting on offense. There are also several juniors who will be crucial to our success. Mason Phillips started for us last year and he’s a junior. Da’Mario is also a junior. Alex McKnight is another junior who is vying for the running back position. We have three sophomores who look like they may step up and take a spot on the varsity. Those are Tim Johnson, Greyson Bachynsky and Jay Thomas Robinson,” the coach said.
“Once we get all the pieces of the puzzle together, we expect all of them to help us. One of those is the guy behind Lee at quarterback and that’s Colt Robinson. He’s a very good athlete and played varsity for us last year, but was mainly on special teams. He’ll be starting somewhere for us,” Lowery said.
On the defensive side of the ball, Lowery said several of the seniors won’t see the sidelines very often. “Hunter Murray and Petey Little were two way starters for us last year. Once they get their conditioning where it needs to be, they’ll both probably start for us on defense. Hunter plays at the strong safety/rover position and Petey is a linebacker. On the line, we have Brett Huester at defensive end who will probably play some offense for us, too. If we started today, Greyson Bachynsky would start at defensive tackle along with Da’Mario Mattingly. Mason Phillips would start at that other end.”
The linebacking corps will be made up of Petey Little, Blake Johnson and Colt Robinson.
“We’ve changed our defense around a little. Our defensive scheme will be made of four defensive linemen, two inside linebackers and four defensive backs with a rover. It’s a 4-2-5 scheme. Right now, Ethan Campbell and Alex McKnight would be in the secondary, along with Lane Jones and Elijah Johnson,” he said.
Special teams play will also be a strength this year for the Lions. “Our kicker is Devon Hammock and I’m not sure how many extra points he made for us last year, but it was a bunch. He also nailed some field goals for us when we needed them. He’s bigger and stronger this year and he will be a weapon for us. He may do double duty for us as the punter, but if he doesn’t, Jay Thomas Robinson will punt. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s got some pop in his leg,” Lowery added.
The Lovelady coaching staff will also see some new, and yet familiar faces on the sidelines. Richard Gunnels returns home to Lovelady as the defensive coordinator while Ted Williams will be the offensive coordinator. Tommy Parker will be the offensive line coach and Randy Gresham will move over to help with the secondary.
HOW I SEE IT: The Lions were 14-1 last year and could conceivably do that again this year. They will need some breaks to get that far and health is always a concern. Expect the Lions to finish first in District 12-2A DI with Groveton in second and Centerville in third. West Sabine, West Hardin and Deweyville will slug it out for the fourth playoff spot.