Lions Defeat Yellow Jackets, 22-20

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

WESTWOOD – Wow! Now that’s the way to start the playoffs! The Lovelady Lions traveled to Panther Stadium on the campus of Westwood High School on Friday, Nov. 17 for a Bi-District showdown with the Alto Yellow Jackets and what a game it was.

The Lions took an early lead only to see the Yellow Jackets score twice on defense to go up 12-8 early in the second half. Lovelady came back to take a 14-12 lead just before the end of the third quarter only to see Alto score a TD with just over four minutes left in the game. The Yellow Jackets were able to convert the two point conversion and took a 20-14 lead with 4:03 remaining in the game.

The Lovelady defense was ferocious against the Alto Yellow Jackets. Pictured above, Mason Phillips (#77) trips up Alto QB Fred Thacker (#16) while DaMario Mattingly (#76) closes in to finish the job.

On the very next play after the kickoff, Lovelady QB Colt Robinson found WR Jay Thomas Robinson along the sidelines for a 68-yard completion down to the Alto one. C. Robinson plowed his way into the end zone on the ensuing play to tie things up at 20 with 3:43 left.

On the extra point attempt, Lovelady lined up as if they were going to kick. The snap went back to holder Logan Lowery who jumped up from his crouched position and rolled to his left. Wide-out Michael Price managed to get a step on an Alto defender and Lowery threw a pass only Price could reach.  The junior receiver stretched for the reception and snagged it out of the air for the two point conversion to give Lovelady a 22-20 lead.

Alto had one last chance for a comeback win, but after reaching midfield, a costly turnover gave the ball back to the Lions and Lovelady was able to run out the clock to win the Bi-District Championship.

The game started off with both teams unable to move the ball with any success. The Lions finally managed to crack the Yellow Jacket defense late in the opening quarter as Tim Johnson scored the game’s first points on a 14-yard touchdown run. C. Robinson slithered his way into the end zone for the two point conversion and with 1:24 left in the first quarter, Lovelady staked themselves to an 8-0 lead.

Lovelady’s Tim Johnson is pictured as he scores the Lions first TD of the game against the Alto Yellow Jackets. The Lions won the Bi-District showdown by a final score of 22-20.

The score remained that way until 5:41 remained in the half. The Lions had the ball and were driving towards the end zone. On third and 10 from the Alto 32, C. Robinson dropped back to pass. Alto’s Jerrion Skinner read the play to perfection, stepped in front of the intended receiver and took the ball 72 yards to the house for a pick six.

When Alto lined up for their extra point attempt, an offensive lineman moved early and pushed the ball back five yards on the penalty. The Yellow Jackets decided to go for two and it wound up costing them. QB Fred Thacker was stopped just short of the goal line on the try for two, but with just under six minutes remaining, Alto had cut the lead to 8-6.

The score remained that way until just after halftime. The Lions opened the third quarter with possession of the ball at their own 40. Facing a third down and seven, C. Robinson had a case of déjà vu all over again as he threw his second pick six of the game.

This time it was Alto’s Hunter Townsend who stepped in front of the pass and took it 43 yards to the end zone to give the Yellow Jackets their first lead of the game. Once again, the Lovelady defense stonewalled Thacker on the try for two but with less than two minutes gone in the second half, Alto led 12-8.

Lovelady’s Greyson Bachynsky breaks free for a 15-yard TD near the end of the third quarter.

As the third quarter was winding down a stiff breeze came up which ultimately hurt the Yellow Jackets’ chances to win. Thacker missed a 32-yard field goal and a punt from deep in the Alto end of the field only traveled 10 yards which gave the Lions the ball at the Yellow Jackets’ 35.

After C. Robinson was held for no gain on first down, Johnson picked up 20 on second down and moved the ball into the Alto red zone. On the next play, Greyson Bachynsky found a crease in the Yellow Jacket defense and scampered 15 yards for the go ahead touchdown. The try for two was unsuccessful, but as the third quarter expired, the Lions had recaptured the lead, 14-12.

Following a drive which stalled at the Lovelady 41, Alto was forced to punt. The ball sailed into the end zone and the Lions took over at their own 20.

Jay Thomas Robinson stiff arms an Alto defender as he heads towards the end zone in the first half. Robinson later hauled in a 68 yard reception to set up the game winning score for Lovelady.

Lovelady was trying to chew up as much time as possible and moved the ball across the midfield stripe. Just when the Lions seemed to have the momentum, a fumble at the Alto 43-yard line gave the ball and the momentum back to the Yellow Jackets.Vi’Dareous High picked up eight yards on first down and then Thacker picked up three. After an incompletion, Thacker connected with Marvin Roberts for 22 yards which moved the ball to the Lovelady 18.

The next snap saw Thacker roll around the right end and bull his way into the end zone from 18 yards out. Thacker also managed to convert the two point attempt and with 4:05 left in the game, Alto led 20-14.

Following the kickoff, the stage was set for the dramatic finish. C. Robinson took the snap at his own 31-yard line and dropped back to pass. J.T. Robinson had gotten behind the defenders and was all alone on the sidelines. The play worked to perfection as the Lovelady receiver hauled in the pass for a 68-yard reception down to the Alto one-yard line.

From there, C. Robinson took care of business and plowed his way into the end zone to tie things up at 20 with 3:43 left. On the try for two, the Lions executed a fake kick and Logan Lowery found Michael Price for the go-ahead score.

After taking the 22-20 lead, the Lions managed to hang on to capture the Bi-District

The Lovelady Lions defeated the Alto Yellow Jackets in the Bi-District round of the playoffs by a final score of 22-20. The will play the Bogota-Rivercrest Rebels next week in Athens.

Championship and move to the Area round of the playoffs. Following the game, AD/Head Coach Jon Lowery commented on his team’s performance.

“I thought this was a game where two teams gave everything they had. It came down to turnovers and we had a couple where they put points on the board,” he said.

“Our kids are beyond resilient,” the coach added. “A lot of kids would be deterred when you give up two defensive scores like we did, but our Lions – they get out there and they have strong hearts. They battled back and I’ll tell you – what an exciting game for the first round of the playoffs.”

Lowery said he was also impressed with the play of his defense.

“They played their tails off, but that’s been all year. In the district part of the season, we held teams to half the points of the next closest team. Our defense was strong and our offense showed up when they needed to,” he said.

The Lions will play the Bogota-Rivercrest Rebels in Athens on Saturday, Nov. 25. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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