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Big comeback by Lovejoy stops Hallsville

By Tyler Clifton
Nov. 16, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.

ATHENS – Lovejoy's defense clamped down in the fourth quarter when the team needed it the most, and the Leopards scored 22 unanswered points in a 55-51 win over the Hallsville Bobcats in Class 4A Division II, Region II play Saturday at Bruce Field.

Dan Sefcik had 228 all-purpose yards, including 145 on 16 carries and a touchdown catch for the Leopards (9-3), who advance to play Ennis next Friday at Waxahachie in the area round. Second-string quarterback Dakota Michaels completed six of 11 passes for 150 yards and the game-winning touchdown, and third-stringer Chochy Luce finished five of 13 for 159 yards and a touchdown along with two scores on the ground. Aaron Fuller was the top receiver with 102 yards on four receptions.

Macailyn Wilder ran 30 times for 237 yards and two touchdowns, and Kha'lil Sneed had 149 yards on 20 carries and four scores for the Bobcats (6-5), but they couldn't deliver the knockout punch.

"It was a tough, hard-nosed football game, and Lovejoy made the necessary plays in the end," Hallsville coach David Plunk said. "I'm proud of our kids, and our guys laid it out on the line all afternoon."

Hallsville entered the second half with a 27-26 lead, as Wilder's 13-yard run and 17-yard pass to Jamil Young set up Sneed's run from five yards out, and another 13-yard pass to Dionte Johnson led to Wilder's 18-yard score. Lovejoy had some miscommunication on an ensuing fake-punt attempt which led to Sneed spinning off his defender for a touchdown run on a 9-yarder for Hallsville's largest lead (48-26) at 5:41 of the third quarter. The Bobcats were sitting pretty, but the Leopards were in attack mode.

Sefcik carried Lovejoy on his shoulders with a 52-yard run leading to Luce's 3-yard touchdown, and the Leopards were slowly but surely gaining the momentum. Things began going their way in bunches, beginning with Luce's fumble into the end zone recovered by Grant Jarvis for a touchdown.

Tate Locklear, who became a personal savior the rest of the game intercepted Wilder and ran it 95 yards back for a touchdown. The flag for what appeared to be a block-in-the-back penalty was waved off, and Fuller ran the two-point conversion attempt in off a reverse to tie the game 48-48 with 9:25 left.

"They told me he blocked our guy in the side," said Plunk, who had a lengthy discussion with the official after the play. "It's all part of the game, and we had our opportunities to put things away and didn't."

It wasn't more evident than when Jaylon Kerby recovered Fuller's muffed punt at the Lovejoy 10. The Bobcats had three chances to get into the end zone and had to settle for Paden Brown's 24-yard field goal for a 51-48 lead with 5:37 remaining in the game along with a Michael Suddeth fumble recovery.

Hallsville stalled on the Leopard 37 and couldn't prevent its pooch punt from reaching the end zone. Michaels found Fuller in stride between two Bobcat defenders for a 63-yard touchdown and took the lead for good at 55-51. Wilder did complete a 23-yard, fourth-down pass to Sneed, but he was intercepted two passes later by Stephen Bennett on a pass tipped by Locklear to seal the victory.

"I feel bad we lost the game," said an emotional Wilder. "We've got to move on, but it won't be easy."

Jacob Taylor fought through his block to stop Luce short of the first down on 4th-and-1 on Lovejoy's own 32-yard line during the Leopard's opening drive. The Bobcats took advantage of the gift, with Wilder running 23 yards for the touchdown for a 6-0 lead after Brown's extra point attempt was blocked.

Lovejoy wisely punted when facing another 4th-and-1 on its second possession, and the Leopards held Hallsville on a 4th-down play to regain possession after the Bobcats drove to the 22 on seven plays.

Luce found Fuller for 14 yards on third down and connected with Sefcik for a 51-yard touchdown.

The Bobcats used the rest of the first-quarter clock on a drive led by Sneed's 24-yard run and Wilder's 12-yard pass to Andre Jones. Wilder had a 26-yard run brought back by a block-in-the-back penalty, but the offense didn't panic, and Sneed made up for it with a 4-yard run on third down. Lovejoy aided the drive with a late hit on Wilder, and Sneed scored from nine yards out to open the second quarter.

Both defenses gave up their fair share of yards in the first half, and 4th-and-1 seemed to be the story of the day for Lovejoy, with Luce converting, but the Leopards were held to a field goal and 13-10 deficit.

Lovejoy also took advantage of solid field position after a Bobcat punt went only 11 yards. Hunter Pfaff's 37-yard touchdown put the Leopards in front 17-13, but Wilder made sure it was brief and found a wide-open Jones for a 29-yard touchdown pass with plenty of protection from his offensive line.

The score was set up by Wilder's 29-yard run, and he added a 21-yarder on the next drive following Sneed's 42-yard scamper, and the junior running back scored his second touchdown from 18 yards out.

Luce did his best to keep the Leopards in the game with an 8-yard scoring run after his 52-yard pass to Jarvis to cut into Hallsville's double-digit lead, and the Bobcats held Lovejoy to a late field goal and a 27-26 advantage at the half. The Bobcats were outgained 315-282 in the first half but already had two 100-yard rushers in Wilder and Sneed, who had 113 and 105 yards, respectively, on 10 carries each.

Luce was five of 11 for 159 yards and a touchdown in the first 24 minutes, as the Leopards spread the wealth offensively and made a big stop at the end of the first half to keep Hallsville ahead by only one



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