By Lawanna Monk
Lovelady's defense dug their claws into the turf late in the game to preserve a 21-20 victory over Joaquin at the Lions Den Friday night.
Clinging to a 1-point lead after Joaquin scored a touchdown with 1:19 left in the game, Petey Little shut down a 2-point conversion play to keep the Lions on top.
Joaquin then attempted an onside kick and recovered at the Lion 47. The Rams failed to pick up a first down and turned the ball over on downs thanks to a big defensive stand by the Lions.
Lovelady took over with :44 left and quarterback Lee Holsey took a knee to run out the clock.
The Rams returned Devon Hammock's opening kickoff to their own 30, where Treyton Wilson made the stop.
Reaching the Lion 37, the Rams fumbled and DaMario Mattingly recovered on the Lion 36. After a short pass from Holsey to Little for two yards, Holsey tossed the ball back to Ethan Campbell, who made it to the Ram 47 behind a block by Little. Holsey went to the air again, this time finding Hunter Murray at the 39. The Lions made it to the 22 on a quarterback keeper and a pass interference penalty on the Rams put them on the 9 yard line. After a short gain by Campbell, Hammock caught a pass in the end zone with 1:44 on the clock. Hammock's kick was good for a 7-0 lead.
Joaquin tied the game at 7-all in the second quarter after a fumble recovery on the Lion 42.
The score came on a 7-yard run with 6:23 on the clock and the PAT was good.
Alex McKnight returned the Ram kickoff from the 13 yard line to the Lion 38. Johnson reached the Ram 46 by keeping his feet moving and dragging defenders with him. A sideline pass to Murray put the Lions on the Ram 31 and Murray caught another pass over the top and cut sharply to avoid the defenders inside the red zone to the 18. The Lions managed just two more yards before turning the ball on downs at the Joaquin 16.
Unable to move the ball, the Rams had to punt and Campbell returned it to the Ram 18. Holsey handed off to Johnson, whose speed carried him right into the end zone with 2:13 on the clock. Murray carried the ball in for the 2-point conversion for a 15-7 lead at halftime.
McKnight returned the second half kick to the Lion 27 but the Lions were unable to gain a first down and Jay T. Robinson punted. With good downfield coverage by the Lions, Lane Jones hit the Joaquin return man at the Ram 35. Led by defensive players Little and Blake Johnson, the Lions held the Rams and forced a punt that rolled to the Lion 20.
Holsey completed a pass to Little but a penalty brought the ball back to the 10 yard line. After Murray gained 4 yards, the Lions were then set for a loss and forced to punt.
Robinson's punt rolled dead at the Ram 36. Stopped on three straight plays, Joaquin faced a fourth-and-short situation. The Lion defensive line of Brett Huester, Mattingly, Greyson Bachynsky and Mason Phillips denied the first down and the Lions took over at the 45.
Another Holsey-to-Murray touchdown pass extended the Lion lead to 21-7, but the extra point kick was blocked.
In the fourth quarter, Joaquin started the next scoring drive on its own 45 after a Lion punt. A pass quickly put them on the Lion 30, setting up an 11-yard TD run with 6:26 on the clock. The kick was good, bringing the score to 21-14.
McKnight returned the kickoff from the 15 to near midfield, but the Lions were forced to punt.
The Rams fielded the ball on their own 47 where Johnson levelled the Joaquin return man to prevent a return.
Joaquin drove down the field and scored on a 4-yard run with 1:19 on the clock. Little spoiled the 2-point conversion, allowing Lion fans to breathe a little easier.
After the Rams recovered the onside kick, the Lion defense did not back off and forced Joaquin to turn the ball over downs.
Lovelady's offense simply had to protect the ball and run out the remaining time to seal the Lions' second victory of the year.