Equal opportunity: Big plays abound for Lovejoy offense, defense against Royse City
File Friday's 49-28 win over Royse City under "business as usual" for Lovejoy football, which has all but shed its label as an underdog Class 3A outfit testing the 4A waters.
"I thought the kids played really well Friday night," said Matt Green, Lovejoy head coach. "Our defense really played well, although the score doesn't necessarily indicate that because they scored a few times on us late. Offensively, we got great production out of several kids."
The final tally placed Royse City within 21, but all 28 Bulldogs points were scored in the final 17 minutes after the Leopards built a 42-0 advantage with 7:34 left in the third.
Credit both sides of the ball for chipping in on the effort, with the Leopards' six offensive touchdowns balanced by six turnovers forced on defense.
Such was the case on Royse City's opening drive, a 12-play strike that moved the Bulldogs to the Lovejoy 13-yard line. The series' 13th play would cripple Royse City's early offensive, with quarterback Jackson Watts picked off by junior Steven Bennett.
The Leopards nudged ahead for the game's first points on a 53-yard field goal by junior Mick Ellis with 3:29 left in the first quarter and would open the floodgates just over a minute over into the second stanza.
Junior Daniel Sefcik scored on a 6-yard run and freshman Bowman Sells hurled two of his four touchdown passes in the second, finding senior Zach Saffle for 30 yards and junior Grant Jarvis for 9 to give Lovejoy a 22-0 advantage at halftime. Sells completed 17-of-23 passes for 272 yards and four touchdowns, with Jarvis as the chief benefactor by hauling in 72 yards on eight catches. Sefcik led the rushing attack with 50 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
"I've got a lot of confidence in [Sells] and I know the players surrounding him feel the same way," Green said. "I think we have a lot of weapons in the passing game and we're blessed with some great running backs and receivers.
"The running game will always be our focal point though, because if you can't do that then nothing else will work. We'll never abandon that, but I think we are growing in the passing game."
The Bulldogs never mustered a counterpunch, with Saffle picking off Watts two times and Bennett returning a fumble recovery 42 yards for a touchdown in the third.
"You always want to force turnovers on the defensive side of the ball," Green said. "I was really proud of the way the kids really didn't allow Royse City to do much after that first drive."
Sells added two more touchdown passes in the third, connecting with senior Cullon Oldham-Greene for 62 yards and junior Justice Luce for 9 yards. Sophomore Chase Tucker added a 7-yard touchdown run to round out the Leopards' scoring ledger as Royse City enjoyed its most productive offensive spurts against the Lovejoy reserves.
The win keeps Lovejoy unbeaten at 9-0 and atop 13-4A for another week.
"Being 9-0 is something our kids are very happy with, but I think they're very grounded right now," Green said. "They understand that we've flown under the radar a bit and that's going away. Teams are understanding that we are a good football team."
The win was enough to assure at least a share of the district title, with a chance at the outright 13-4A crown up for grabs Friday at 7:30 p.m. when Lovejoy hosts Wylie East.
The Raiders trail Lovejoy by just one game (5-1) and possess the area's top 4A offense at 489.3 yards per game and the No. 3 scoring attack at 42.8 points.
"They're going to pose a huge problem for us because they can score a lot of points and move the ball," Green said. "They do a good job of keeping you off-balance and they are a very worthy opponent. We're dealing with a team that's very talented and we know what kind of test this is."
Not only would a win Friday secure the outright district title, it would give Lovejoy a 10-0 record for its first unbeaten regular season in program history.
"Everybody wants to be a trendsetter and be the first to accomplish something, but I don't think that's our driving force," Green said. "That's a great achievement but our goal is to win the district championship and head into the playoffs with some momentum."
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