In its final state qualifying tournament of the summer, Lovejoy reserved a slot at the state 7-on-7 showcase.
The Leopards, along with West Mesquite, Marshall and Mission Pioneer qualified for the state tournament at the Rowlett SQT, meaning Lovejoy will compete in Austin for the second consecutive year with the other top 7-on-7 teams from the state.
Lovejoy’s state tournament-clinching win came over hosts Rowlett in the final, 33-12. The Leopards scored a touchdown right before halftime to take a 14-16 lead, then scored two unanswered touchdowns in the second half to open up a 27-6 lead it would never relinquish. Lovejoy also beat Frisco Heritage, 36-33, and Rockwall, 44-25, in pool play.
“This was arguably our best 7-on-7 tournament, results-wise, but we’ve honestly played really well all summer,” said Todd Ford, Lovejoy head coach. “We overcame a loss and kept playing our game, and good things happened to us. I’m happy our kids get to go down to state and compete one more time.”
Lovejoy has qualified for state despite the off-and-on attendance of several key players during the 7-on-7 season, which can be a busy time for juniors and seniors, Ford said.
“Kids are at camps, visiting colleges, taking ACT’s and other tests, so there’s going to be some guys that you’re missing,” he said. “That’s just kind of part of it, but the next guy steps up and plays. We like it that way, and it builds depth in your program. It’s the maturation of our program, too. Our kids are able to step into a spot and they the confidence to play well.”
Pools for the state tournament have been released, and Lovejoy will compete in Pool P of the Division I grouping. That pool includes A&M Consolidated, Fort Bend Bush and Edinburg North. All Division I games are Friday and Saturday at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station.
“I like how the tournament directors have organized this, because it looks like they’re placing teams in pools from all different regions,” Ford said. “We’re playing a Houston team, a Rio Valley team. It’s nice to go play against different competition. The thing with our guys, they just go out and play.”
Before the Rowlett tournament, Lovejoy’s run through summer 7-on-7 was highlighted by an impressive performance at the Northwest state qualifier, going 2-1 in pool play with wins over Fort Worth South Hills and McKinney. Waco Midway stole the middle game of pool play against the Leopards with a 32-20 win.
Lovejoy qualified for the semifinals in its second SQT, but lost and did not qualify for state. The offense, especially, was solid all three weeks but hit its zenith in the third tournament, defeating South Hills by four touchdowns. That performance was on the back of two 20-point victories in the second week against Lake Dallas and Denison, where the offense scored more than 30 points in each game.
The defense, too, has been solid in 7-on-7’s – an atmosphere that is not always kind to that side of the ball. The Leopards held South Hills to only one touchdown, and kept McKinney, a 6A school, at 19. That also continued a trend from the previous week, where Lake Dallas and Denison scored a combined 25 points against Lovejoy.
Lovejoy boasts a plethora of impressive skill positions players this season on both sides of the ball. The defense is led by senior linebacker Bumper Pool, who is committed to Arkansas, senior defensive end Mason Mitchell, and senior cornerback Landon McDermott. Junior Carson Collins, who threw 20 touchdowns as a sophomore, is back at the signal caller position with the always-dangerous Chase Van Wagoner returning at wide receiver.
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