By Lawanna Monk
GROVETON- Not only did Lovelady spoil Groveton's homecoming night with a 24-14 victory on Friday, Oct. 24, but it was the first time the Lions have prevailed on Indian soil in the long-running football rivalry.
This was a crucial win to keep the Lions in contention for one of three playoff berths up for grabs. The Lions, 1-2 in district, must win their two remaining games against West Hardin and Hull-Daisetta.
Centerville and Anderson-Shiro both sit atop the district standings with perfect 3-0 records. Lovelady, Groveton and Hull-Daisetta are all 1-2, and West Hardin is 0-3.
Lion Alex McKnight teed up the ball for the opening kickoff and the Indians took possession on their own 31. The Lion defense went to work and after three plays forced the Indians to punt.
The ball rolled dead at the Lion 28, where the Lion offense set up shop. The Lions wasted no time scoring as center Brandon Gearheart snapped the ball to quarterback Lee Holsey, who then handed off to Taylor Golden on the first play. The fleet-footed Golden sprinted down the Groveton sideline 72 yards for the first touchdown of the night. The 2-point conversion was good by Holsey for an 8-0 lead with 10:16 on the clock.
After McKnight's kickoff and a Lion penalty, Groveton went to work at its own 33. Lion Taylor Connell sacked the Indians quarterback for a 10-yards loss on first down, but the Indians were still able to drive down the field inside the Lion 20. The Lions dug in their heels and on fourth-and-goal, Dustan Ham burst through the line and took down the quarterback giving Lovelady possession.
The Lions had trouble moving the ball due to penalties and Jacob Jeffus punted to the Groveton 49. Lovelady's defense stood strong with Connell making the tackle on first down, Sean Bridges making the stop on second and Jeffus breaking up a pass on third down to force a Groveton punt.
The ball rolled to the Lion 22, where Holsey opened the drive with a completion over the middle to Bridges at the Lion 32. Bridges took the handoff on the next two plays, running up the middle for a gain of 9 on the first play and then to the Indian 47 on the second. Holsey capped the drive on the next play and Golden ran in the 2-point conversion for a 16-0 lead with :12 left in the first.
In the second quarter, Lion defender DaMario Mattingly intercepted a pass at the Groveton 45. Hit with two penalties, however, the Lions were forced to punt and Jeffus' kick rolled to the Groveton 14.
Brandon Pollock stopped the Indians for no gain on first down and the Indians were eventually forced to punt on fourth down. The Lions took over at their own 41, but the possession ended with an interception at the Groveton 48.
Another penalty against Lovelady moved the Indians inside Lion territory to the 37. After seven downs, the Indian quarterback scored from the 10 with 5:18 on the clock to cut the lead to 16-6. The 2-point conversion was no good.
Starting the second half, Golden returned the kickoff to the Groveton 20 but the ball was brought back to the Lion 11 on the first of many second-half penalties.
Groveton's next scoring drive started on the Lion 34 after a punt and this time the Indians scored on a pass play with 4:26 on the clock. Groveton added a 2-point conversion that cut the Lions lead to 16-14.
Late in the third, Groveton fumbled and Lovelady's Pollock recovered on the 30 yard line. Golden gained five, Bridges added two and Holsey ran to the Lion 41 as time was running out in the thurd quarter.
Resuming play in the fourth quarter, Cade White advanced the ball seven yards and Bridges carried across midfield for a first down. Bridges scored on the seventh play of this possession and Golden made the 2-point conversion for a 24-14 lead with 10:53 on the clock.