ARLINGTON, Texas —The area round of the playoffs came to a close with the final game Saturday night at AT&T Stadium between the Leopards of Lucas Lovejoy and the Rangers of Frisco Lone Star.
And though Lovejoy got off to a promising start, Lone Star controlled most of the game in a 42-9 victory.
“‘At this point, you’re one of sixteen teams fighting for a state championship,” Lone Star Head Coach Jeff Rayburn said about advancing to the regional semifinals. “To be in that elite company when there are about 245 or so 5A schools, it’s pretty special. To have the opportunity to continue to practice and continue to play is awesome.”
Much like their Associated Press No. 9 standing in the Lone Star State, the Rangers became the few and the proud of high school football. It didn’t come as easily as area oddsmakers and pundits may have predicted, though.
Lovejoy started the game driving the ball down the field before Trey Taylor stepped in front of a Carson Collins pass to give Lone Star the ball. But the Lovejoy defense held and forced a punt. However, Collins would throw another interception to Nicholas Bolton who took it in for the pick-6 and gave Lone Star an early 7-0 lead.
On their next drive, the Leopards hung on to the ball and drove down the field to set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Collins to Chase Van Wagoner. However, the two-point conversion was no good and the score remained 7-6.
Lone Star looked to hold onto the momentum but a fumble by quarterback MJ Rivers was recovered by Lovejoy and the Leopards took over inside the red zone. They could not get into the end zone however and Jared McLemore kicked the field goal that put Lovejoy up 9-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Lone Star then opened the second quarter with a 28-yard touchdown run by Darrin Smith to put the Rangers back up 14-9. Lovejoy was looking to take the lead back but again Carson Collins was picked off by Bolton, who took it back For a touchdown for a touchdown to make it 21-9.
Lone Star scored again a drive later on a 2-yard pass to Kavika Pittman to make it 28-9. Just as Lovejoy was knocking on the door, Collins was picked off again — this time by Elias Hernandez as time expired in the first half.
Lone Star came out for the second half and immediately drove all the way down the field capped off by a 7-yard strike from Rivers to Pittman to extend Lone Star’s lead to 35-9. Lovejoy would then start putting a drive together only to fail on fourth and long.
Lone Star looked to extend their lead. But on the last play of the third quarter, Landon McDermott was able to come down with the interception to give Lovejoy some momentum going into the fourth quarter.
However, Lovejoy again could not move the ball offensively and they were forced to punt. Lone Star would take advantage and make one final touchdown drive to go up 42-9 on a Rivers 22-yard pass to Ife Opere.
Lovejoy had one last shot to get some points but Collins was intercepted again by Jaylen Ford to give the Rangers the ball. The Rangers fumbled on the ensuing play would fumble and it would be recovered by Lovejoy.
Seeking to avoid further damage, Lovejoy Head Coach Todd Ford elected to run down the clock to end the Leopards’ season.
“We knew what they were going to do” defensive back Nicholas Bolton said about the defensive performance. “We made adjustments after the first quarter after they drove down the field a couple of times, and we made the adjustments and got the job done.”
Lovejoy’s season ends with a record of 6-6 after the loss. Lone Star improves to 11-1 and will face Waxahachie at 1 p.m. Saturday at The Star.
*This story had additional reporting from Marcus Matthews-Marion.
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