On the first play from scrimmage of its first-round playoff matchup against Bremen, Lovett lined up on defense at the Blue Devils 18-yard line. Both teams were looking for a big play to set the tone early, but it was Lions defensive back Peyton Ringer that came out on top.
As Bremen quarterback Wade Cartwright attempted a shot down the field on the opening offensive play, Ringer blanketed his receiver and came away with an interception. He caught the ball at the 35, did an about face and carried it all the way back to the Bremen 8-yard line. One play later, the Lions were in the end zone, and they never looked back. They defeated the Blue Devils 32-0 at home to advance to the second round of the Class AAA playoffs, where they will play at Greater Atlanta Christian next Friday.
GAC defeated Lovett 46-14 to open this season. The Lions have dropped four consecutive games to the Spartans, dating back to 2014. GAC has averaged a 22.75 margin of victory in those games.
“We’re very familiar with GAC,” Lovett coach Mike Muschamp said after Friday’s win. “We’ve got a great rivalry, and we’ve had an awful lot of good competition. They’ve had our number the past few years, so I’ll just tell the guys it’s the next step. It’s another step we have to clear to get to where we want to be. These opportunities don’t grow on trees.”
On Friday, the Lions (7-4) showed what they could do with extra opportunities. After the opening-play interception, it was running back Nick Jackson who ran in the 8-yard touchdown to put Lovett ahead. It added a two-point conversion run by Trent Beavor to jump ahead 8-0 early.
Lovett forced another turnover, this time a fumble by Tyran Dobbs to end the first quarter, and turned that into its second score of the game just three plays later.
Dobbs fumbled at the Lions 37-yard line, and Lovett running back Crawford Schwieger took it 62 yards near the goal line on the first play of the ensuing drive. He broke free around right end and missed a touchdown by a shoestring tackle that brought him down inches short of pay dirt. Two plays later, sophomore quarterback Blaine McAllister found senior wide receiver Evan McKown in the front right corner of the end zone to make it 14-0.
“Turnovers are big in any game, but in the playoffs, it just creates such a big swing,” Muschamp said. “I’m proud of how the kids responded both times and were able to get points. (Bremen) is a physical team, and we responded well.”
Bremen (9-2), meanwhile, couldn’t take advantage of its opportunities. It forced three turnovers, in addition to three other Lovett fumbles that Lions got back, and failed to score on each. The Blue Devils also forced a turnover on downs at the 2-yard line, but immediately snapped the ball out of the back of the end zone on the first play of the ensuing drive for a safety.
That play came midway through the third quarter with the game still within reach. The safety made it 16-0, however, and – as it had all game – Lovett turned the fortuitous opportunity into more points with an 11-yard touchdown run by Jackson to make it 22-0.
McAllister added a 2-yard touchdown and Henry Beery a 29-yard field goal to close out the scoring.
Overall, the Lovett defense allowed just 121 yards of total offense and took the ball away three times.
“George Pribish is our defensive coordinator, and he just does an outstanding job of preparing our kids and putting them in great positions to make plays,” Muschamp said of the defensive effort.
The Lions were led on offense by Schwieger’s 118 yards rushing, Jackson’s two touchdowns, and McAllister’s 154 yards and two touchdowns passing.