Lions Stung by Turnovers in Loss
By Will Johnson
VAN – The Lovelady Lions traveled to Van last Friday, Nov. 22 for an Area Round playoff matchup against the Muenster Hornets. It was the second time in two years Lovelady and Muenster had met in the playoffs, with the Hornets winning last year’s Area Championship, 32-22.
The Lions finished the 2019 regular season at 5-4, captured the second seed out of District 12-2A DII behind the Grapeland Sandies and beat the Wortham Bulldogs 62-20 in Bi-District, to reach the Area Round.
The Hornets, on the other hand, finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and were the District 9-2A DII champs. They had defeated the Clarksville Tigers 61-32 in Bi-District to set up their game with the Lions.
Lovelady was geared up for the game and statistically beat Muenster in nearly every category. The Lions had more first downs, dominated in time of possession – 31:26 to 16:14 – and had 290 yards in total offense to Muenster’s 306.
Unfortunately, the one category Lovelady did not want to lead was in turnovers as the Lions had a 5-1 edge. As a result, while the final was 42-6 in favor of the Hornets, the game was actually much closer than the score indicated.
The Lions started the game with possession of the ball at their own 25. Slade Murray lost a yard on first down but Josh Martinez picked up three on second. An incompletion on third down forced a punt from Lovelady but when the ball was bobbled on the snap Shaun Easterling made a dash for the first down marker but came up just short.
On the Hornets’ first play from scrimmage after the turnover on downs, Jonathan Wheeler found a crease in the Lovelady defense and scampered 33 yards to the end zone. Trey McTaggert knocked the PAT through the uprights to make the score 7-0 in favor of Muenster.
The Lions’ next possession also began at their own 25, but this time the Lovelady ground game got things going. Lovelady launched a 13-play drive that chewed up over six minutes of the first quarter. Martinez carried the ball 11 times on the drive while Murray and Logan Le Blanc each had one carry.
Martinez had worked the ball into the Muenster red zone, but on fourth and three from the Hornets’ 19, Martinez was thrown for a loss and Muenster took over on their own 20
The two teams exchanged punts to close out the quarter but on the final play of the first period, Muenster’s Brett Hammer returned a Nick Ochoa punt 56 yards to the Lovelady 13-yard line.
As the second quarter got underway, Muenster’s Trent Anderle picked up four while Wheeler added another two giving the Hornets a third-and-four from the seven. On third down, Hornets’ QB Lane Trubenbach found Wheeler in the end zone for six. The PAT by McTaggart was good and with 10:38 left in the half, Lovelady now trailed 14-0.
The next time Lovelady had the ball, they shot themselves in their collective foot. Behind solid blocking by the offensive line, Martinez moved the ball out to the 42. A defensive penalty pushed the ball out to the 47 but on the next play, an offensive personal foul moved the ball back to the 32.
Martinez managed to get five yards of the penalty back, but on second down and 10, Murray was picked off at the 42-yard line by Grant Hess.
On Muenster’s next play from scrimmage, Trubenbach kept the ball and ran 42 yards to pay dirt. The XP by McTaggart was good and gave the Hornets a 21-0 lead with 7:33 left in the half.
The Lions had one last chance before the half to cut into the lead but a fumble by the Lions gave the ball back to the Hornets who ran out the half and took a 21-0 lead into the locker room.
The third quarter started out on a promising note for the Lions. The Hornets started the second half with possession of the ball and moved out to their own 44, but on third-and-13, Trubenbach was picked off by Murray at the Lovelady 40.
Once again, the bulk of the work went to Martinez as the Lions moved inside the 30-yard line of Muenster. Unfortunately, on fourth-and two from the 25, Murray was tackled for a loss and the ball went over to Muenster on downs.
Three plays later, the Hornets extended their lead as Trubenbach broke free on a 65-yard scamper for his second rushing TD of the game.
After the kickoff, Lovelady started on their own 28. On first down, however, Muenster’s Danny Luttmer stepped in front of a Murray pass and took it to the house for a pick six, giving the Hornets a 35-0 lead with 3:40 left in the third quarter.
The score remained that way until the start of the fourth quarter when Muenster’s Trent Anderle broke loose for a 37 yard TD. The extra point by McTaggart was good and put the Hornets ahead 42-0.
The Lions finally got on the scoreboard the next time they had the ball. Starting at the 25, Martinez picked up 26 yards on three carries. A pair of penalties pushed the Lions back across the midfield stripe and set up a fourth-and-17.
On fourth down, Murray connected with Ochoa for 18 yards to keep the drive alive. Now at the Muenster 38, Martinez picked up two and LeBlanc chipped in six.
An offsides penalty gave the Lions a first down at the Hornets’ 25, but after a two-yard pick up from Eric Anderson, back-to-back incompletions put Lovelady in a fourth-and-eight.
With the clock nearing the five minute mark, Murray broke the Lovelady scoring drought as he found Ochoa on a 23-yard TD to make the score 42-6. The try for two was no good.
That was as close as the Lions would get as they were unable to put together another sustained drive and fell by a final score of 42-6. The loss ends Lovelady’s season with a record of 6-5 and a Bi-District Championship.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.