Lucas Lovejoy trailed by 22 points late in the third quarter of its first round game and came back to win. If there is a team that should know not to give up, it’s the Leopards.
While the players fought hard, their band knew the second-round game against Ennis wouldn’t end the same.
The Lions led 42-13 at halftime and the Lovejoy band took that as cue to leave Lumpkins Stadium before even performing. That was ominous for the rest of the game as Ennis rolled to a 64-13 win in the second-round game.
Lovejoy scored the first touchdown of the game after a 60-yard opening drive. The team then converted an onside kick and drove inside the Lions’ red zone at it seemed like Ennis’ undefeated season might be in jeopardy.
Then senior safety Jah’Shawn Johnson, a Texas Tech commit stepped up and made a big play like he has all season. He stepped in front of a pass in the end zone and picked it off, his third interception of the playoffs.
“Coaches say that big-time players make big-time plays,” Johnson said. “I’m one of the team leaders and I want to do that anyway I can and just get the team ready.”
It only took three more plays for another big-time player to make a play. Devin Smith hit Tre Elliott on a wide receiver screen and he took it 82 yards for a touchdown.
Lovejoy fumbled the ensuing kick off and Nicholas Gabriel dove into the end zone from two yards out the next play and suddenly Ennis’ 6-0 deficit turned into a 14-6 lead in just 13 seconds.
“We’ve got to do things right, but the kids have worked hard,” Ennis coach Jack Alvarez said. “It’s a team deal. It’s not just one guy that’s doing it for us.”
Lovejoy’s offense got 130 yards in the first quarter, but it mustered just 161 the last three.
“I’ve got to give our defensive staff a lot of credit because Lovejoy does a lot of different things,” Alvarez said. “They do the power running game, they do the zone read, they throw it all over the field. It was definitely a challenge and we saw all of it tonight and we handled it.”
Ennis forced five turnovers, four fumbles, to help the offense play with a short field most of the night. The Lions, especially Gabriel, capitalized on that. The senior ran for 160 yards on just 15 carries and scored four touchdowns, all in the first half.
His work load got bigger after star running back Terence Williams, a Baylor commit, left with an injury in the second quarter. He bruised his shin and may have kept playing had the game been closer. He still had 108 yards on just nine carries and scored on a 27-yard run early in the second quarter.
Alvarez expects him to play in the Lions’ third-round game.
Gabriel’s fourth touchdown with 1:04 left in the second quarter gave the Lions’ the 42-13 lead at the half. Ennis’ defense then produced more points for the Lions as Lovejoy’s quarterback ran out of the back of the end zone to avoid a sack, resulting in a safety. Ennis capitalized on the free kick as Taylor Thompson scored on a 42-yard run to give Ennis a 50-13 lead after the third quarter.
On just the second play of the fourth quarter, the Lions struck again as third-string running back Isaac Montemayor broke off a 49-yard run down the left sideline.
Ennis’ defense struck one last time as Clay Quinn scooped up a fumble and ran it back 49 yards for the game’s final points. The Lions scored 28 points off of Lovejoy’s five turnovers.
Despite the freezing drizzle that fell on the players the entire game, the Lions appeared to love playing in Waxahachie. Just two weeks ago, Ennis got a 61-28 win against the Indians.
“We’ve had some success here. The kids were excited to be here since it was close and with the weather being bad it allowed more of our people to come,” Alvarez said. “We appreciate the hospitality that Waxahachie ISD showed us and we would do the same for them.”
No offense to Lumpkins Stadium, but the Lions will be playing in an even better location next week. One where they don’t have to worry about whatever the weather may be.
Ennis (12-0) heads to AT&T Stadium in Arlington to take on the Frisco (9-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The players knew that was the next destination as they chanted “Jerry World” on the field while celebrating.