By Will Johnson
LOVELADY – It was one of the more anticipated games of the year as two long-time rivals squared off for the District 12-2A Championship. The Groveton Indians brought their 8-1 record to Lovelady to take on the 7-1 Lovelady Lions in a matchup that had fans on both sides of the field eagerly awaiting the kickoff.
Unfortunately for the hometown fans, the high stakes duel between the sometimes bitter rivals was a one-sided affair which saw the Indians hammer the Lions by a final score of 55-20.
The game opened with the high powered Indians on offense. The Lions’ defense, with three shutouts on the season, was up to the challenge on the first series of downs. Groveton QB Glenn Thornton picked up five yards on first down, lost two on second and threw an incomplete pass on third and seven from the Indians’ 37, which forced a punt.
The Lions took over at their own 27 and tried a bit of trickeration on their first play from scrimmage. Lovelady QB Lee Holsey threw a lateral towards the sidelines that was caught by Hunter Murray. Once Murray secured the catch, he launched a bomb that was just out of the reach of a Lovelady receiver streaking down the field.
On second down, however, the wheels on the Lovelady offense showed a little wobble as a fumble on the rain soaked field was recovered by Groveton at the Lions’ 23.The Lovelady “D” didn’t wilt fold under pressure and forced a turnover on downs when Thornton was unable to convert a fourth and six form the 19.
Thornton picked up three yards and Lovelady took over at their own 16. A five yard offsides penalty moved the ball past the 20 and after not allowing a first down on consecutive Groveton possessions, it appeared as if the Lions were ready to take control of the game.
Two plays later, the wheels came completely off as a second Lovelady fumble deep in its own end of the field gave the ball back to Groveton. Following a two yard pickup from the Indians’ Ethan Cathey, Thornton picked up a first down with back-to-back runs.
With the ball at the Lovelady seven, Thornton fumbled, but was able to jump on it and maintain possession. On the next play, the QB found Haden Terry in the end zone with a nine yard touchdown pass. The extra point from Saul Chavez was good and with 7:16 left in the first quarter, Groveton led 7-0.
Following the kickoff, the Lions showed some signs of life on offense. They picked up a first down and had the ball near midfield when the turnover bug struck again. Lovelady’s third fumble of the first quarter gave the ball back to Groveton at the 32.
The Lions were solid on defense once again and forced the Indians into a fourth and five situation. On fourth down, Thornton and Terry connected for nine yards to keep the Indian’ drive alive. As the drive continued, the Indians moved inside the Lovelady 10 and faced yet another fourth down. This time, Lovelady didn’t have any answers for Thornton as he found Cathey with an eight yard scoring pass. After the Chavez PAT, Groveton led by a score of 14-0 with 2:40 remaining in the opening period.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ethan Campbell returned the ball to the Groveton 37 but was stripped as he was going to the ground. Lovelady seemed positively snake bit as the Indians pounced on the rock for their fourth fumble recovery of the quarter.
While the Lions managed to force the Indians into two more fourth and long situations, they could not seem to get Groveton off the field as Thornton engineered a 63 yard drive that ended with a 16 yard scoring strike to Eli Stewart. Chavez converted the PAT and with 8:15 left in the half, Groveton now led 21-0.
Following the kickoff, Lovelady was unable to generate any offense on their next possession and turned the ball over on downs at the Groveton 45.
When the Indians took possession again, Thornton provided the bulk of the work. The signal caller gained nine yards on first down, connected with Terry for 15 more, gained another 10, and after Cathey picked up five, Thornton took it the remaining six yards for the score.
The Lions were finally able to get on the scoreboard the next time they had the ball. On first down, Groveton was flagged for roughing the passer. Holsey then connected with Murray for seven yards and after Tim Johnson picked up 12 yards on two rushing attempts, Holsey found Colt Robinson on a 28 yard post route for the Lions’ first points of the game. Devon Hammock knocked the PAT through the uprights and with 3:17 left in the half, the Lions had cut the lead to 21.
The celebratory mood didn’t last very long on the Lions’ side of the field as the Indians scored on their next play from scrimmage. A good return on the kickoff gave Groveton the ball at the Lovelady 45. Thornton wasted little time in pushing the lead back towards 28 and found Stewart over the middle for a 45 yard TD.
The extra point attempt was blocked and Alex McKnight scooped up the ball and outran the Groveton defenders for what appeared to be a two point score for Lovelady. The Lions, however, were called for an offsides penalty on the extra point attempt which nullified McKnight’s score and gave the ball back to Groveton for a second chance at the extra point. This time, the Indians went for two and Stewart hauled in Thornton’s pass to bring the first half scoring to a close with Groveton ahead by a 36-7 margin.
After the break, Lovelady started the third quarter with ball but could not get anything going on offense and punted on fourth down. Groveton, meanwhile, picked up where it left off in the first half as Thornton drove the Indians down the field and ended the possession with an eight yard TD pass to Dawson Chumley. The Chavez extra point was no good but with 7:29 left in the third, the Indians now led 42-7.
Groveton scored twice more in the third to put the game out of reach. Cathey barreled his way into the end zone with 1:43 remaining in the quarter and Thornton connected with Chumley for 67 yards and a touchdown just before the third quarter ended.
The Lions eventually found the end zone once again as the fourth quarter got underway. Holsey connected with Devon Hammock on a 55 yard scoring pass at the 8:36 mark of the fourth and then found Petey Little with a six yard TD with 2:08 remaining in the game.
After the kickoff, the Indians were able to run out the clock and walk off the field with the 55-20 win and the District 12-2A championship.
The loss drops Lovelady to the third seed from District 12-2A as the postseason begins and means the Lions are tentatively scheduled to play the Joaquin Rams in the first round of the playoffs. As of press time, the location, date and time of the game was not known. Lovelady and Joaquin faced each other earlier this year with the Lions winning the game at home by a score of 21-20.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org