By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

JOAQUIN – After defeating the Joaquin Rams twice last year, the Lovelady Lions seemed to have the Rams number on the football field. The Lions squeaked out a 21-20 victory during last year’s regular season and then turned around and knocked the Rams out the of playoffs with a 33-16 win in the Bi-District round.

In addition, the Lions had previously knocked the Rams out of the baseball playoffs during the 2016 Regional Quarterfinals. Needless to say, Joaquin had acquired a serious dislike for all things Lovelady in the last two years. They did, however, manage to extract a small measure of revenge last Friday night with their 43-28 win over the Lions.

It took just over a minute for Joaquin to show the Lions things were going to be different in 2017. On their first play from scrimmage, Rams’ QB Tray Wilkerson hit running back Connor Bragg for a 31 yard completion.   Three plays later, Hunter Gates bulled his way into the end zone from 19 yards out and when Jesus Bravo knocked the PAT through the uprights, Joaquin had staked itself to a 7-0 lead at the 10:59 mark of the first quarter.

While Lovelady had graduated the majority of starters from last year’s team, Coach Jon Lowery’s squad still knew a thing or two about winning as the Lions came roaring back with an answer in three plays.

Starting with the ball at their own 39 yard line, Lovelady picked up 30 yards on their first two plays and then Lions QB Colt Robinson found Tre’Von Hawkins for a 31 yard scoring strike, The two point conversion attempt failed but with 10:02 still left in the first quarter, the score stood at Joaquin 7 and Lovelady 6.

After the two teams exchanged punts, the field position game caught up to the visitors. Joaquin took over at their own 45 and after picking up a pair of first downs, Bragg burst up the middle for 22 yards and a touchdown. Bravo’s extra point attempt was good and with 3:49 left in the quarter, the Rams now led 14-6.

Lovelady stormed back and appeared to have the Rams on their heels as they began to drive the ball downfield behind their stout offensive line. Unfortunately for the Lions, Robinson was picked off by Joaquin linebacker Trenton Ramsey at the 42 yard line and he returned the pick down to the Lovelady 18.Two plays later, Ram fullback Joseph Tarver plowed his way into the end zone from 13 yards out.

After Joaquin converted a two point attempt, the Lions fired right back as they drove the length of the field and scored on a 10 yard pass from Robinson to Michael Price. Robinson was able to convert the two point attempt and with 6:57 remaining in the half, Joaquin led 22-14.

The Rams added a late score just before the half as Bragg found a seam and slipped into the end zone from 11 yards out. Rojo’s PAT closed out the first half scoring with Joaquin ahead by a 29-14 margin.

Neither team’s offense could get anything going after the halftime break as defense was the name of the game in the third quarter.

While defense ruled the day in the third quarter, offense took over as the fourth quarter got underway. Wilkerson managed to find the end zone for Joaquin with 11:24 left in the game and the extra point pushed the Rams’ lead to 36-14.

The Lions would not go quietly, however, as they fought to the bitter end. Lovelady’s Tim Johnson battered his way across the goal line from two yards out and Robinson added two points on the conversion attempt to make the score 36-22 with 4:59 left to play.

Lovelady attempted an onside kick after the score but the Rams recovered. The Lions defense stepped up and forced Joaquin into a fourth and one situation from their own 49 with just over four minutes remaining.

The Rams elected to go for it and after being thwarted on the initial push, Wilkerson slipped through a seam at the line of scrimmage and scampered 51 yards to pay dirt. Rojo’s PAT was good and pushed Joaquin’s lead to 43-22.

Lovelady added a late score on a Colt Robinson to Jay Thomas Robinson TD pass to make the score 43-28. The two point conversion attempt failed and when Joaquin recovered the ensuing onside kickoff attempt, the Rams were able to hold on for the win.

The Lions return home this week to take on the Leon Cougars. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22.

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