Lovejoy struggled to move the ball for a half in its Class AAAA quarterfinal against Ware County, but in the second half, the Wildcats and tailback Travis Custis solved the Gators’ defense.
Custis scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns and a Lovejoy (13-0) posted its eighth shutout, beating Ware 14-0 Friday night at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
The two teams played to a scoreless tie in the first half, but on the opening possession of the second half, Lovejoy drove 63 yards in 10 plays, capped by Custis’ 1-yard run.
After the Lovejoy defense forced a punt, Custis broke loose on a 62-yard run. He appeared to be stopped at the line but pushed through and sprinted down the right sideline for a 14-0 lead.
“ I don’t know how I got out of that pile, but I did,” said Custis, who finished with 203 yards on 24 carries. “I have to give up to my line. They got a good push.”
Ware County passed for minus-10 yards in the first half, but had success on option plays to Xavier Tobler, who had runs of 37 and 28 yards on option pitches. The Gators (10-3) rushed for 126 yards in the first half, but managed just 10 on the ground in the second half and finished with 195 total yards, and Lovejoy thwarted two scoring opportunities with red-zone interceptions
Tobler finished with 77 yards on nine carries.
“If you can run the ball and play good defense you’ve got a chance,” said Lovejoy coach Al Hughes, who has the Clayton County school in the state semifinals for the first time. “We just give it to Travis, and the defense takes care of itself.”
Lovejoy survived a first-quarter turnover that gave the Gators the ball at the Wildcat 38. The Lovejoy defense forced a 45-yard field goal try by Ware’s Seth Starling, whose kick fell short.
“We moved the ball on them in the first half, but against a defense like that, you really have to be on,” said Ware County coach Ed Dudley.
A second Ware County scoring opportunity was stopped when Gators quarterback Josh Bennett tried to throw the ball away to avoid a sack and was picked off by Lovejoy’s Rico McWilliams at the Wildcat 16.
“Our defensive ends are just awesome,” McWilliams said. “We just told the offense if they could get us 14 points we were going to win.”
Ware’s last chance came with just over three minutes left. Scrapping the running game, Bennett moved the Gators from their own 24 to the Lovejoy 25 before Jermaine Hough intercepted him at the 2-yard line.