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The Lone Star defense was suffocating on Saturday against Lovejoy in the Class 5A Region II area round. Lovejoy scored nine points in the first quarter, then zero for the rest of the game. 

ARLINGTON - Turnovers derailed a promising start to the game for Lovejoy, and by the second quarter, the Frisco Lone Star offense had awoken.

Two first-half interceptions by senior linebacker Nic Bolton – both of which he returned for touchdowns – helped the Rangers overcome a slow start by the offense, and quarterback M.J. Rivers took over in the second half to lead Lone Star to a 42-9 victory in the Class 5A UIL Region II area round.

Lone Star will play Waxahachie in the third round on Saturday at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.   

Rivers finished with 215 yards passing and three touchdowns, and receiver Kavika Pittman had two touchdown catches to go along with 215 yards receiving.

Rivers was a magician on third down, converting a third-and-22 in the second quarter and a third-and-18 in the third quarter. Both of those conversions came via a catch by receiver Marvin Mims, who finished with137 yards on six catches, and both of those conversions led to touchdowns on the same drive.

“This is a special group of guys, and we’re excited to keep playing,” said Jeff Rayburn, Lone Star head coach. “Waxahachie is a special team, so we’ve got our work cut out for us”

Bolton’s two picks came when he undercut the route run by the receiver targeted by junior quarterback Carson Collins, who finished the game with five interceptions. Bolton nearly got his hand on a third interception in the first half, but the ball went through his hands and bounced off his helmet.

“We had a pretty good idea what they were doing [on offense], so I just followed [Collins] with my eyes and stayed in my zone,” Bolton said. “It never hurts to score on defense, especially when you have as good as an offense as we do.”

“Besides the interceptions, having a guy like Nic around really makes everything better,” added Rayburn. “You don’t always see the behind-the-scene things, like getting everyone lined up and ready. He’s special.”

It was a rough first half for the Leopards, who besides the turnovers lost senior wide receiver Chase Van Wagoner, a TCU commit, to an injury midway through the second quarter. He would not return for the rest of the game.

Before his injury, Van Wagoner was on the receiving end of a perfect pass from Collins in the end zone. Mason Mitchell then forced a Rivers fumble on the ensuing Lone Star drive, and Lovejoy took a 9-7 lead on a 36-yard field goal from Jared McLemore.

Those would be the final Lovejoy points of the game, as Lone Star suffocated Collins’ passing lanes and allowed little operating room for junior running back Jahi Rainey, who finished with only 33 yards rushing.

Turnovers were key, as Lovejoy and Lone Star finished close in total yardage – the Rangers only outgained the Leopards by 10 yards, and had one less first down in the game.

“It was a combination of things,” said Todd Ford, Lovejoy head coach. “They made some adjustments at halftime. We were doing some good things early, but at the end of the day, we have to take care of the ball. We can’t give an offense like that all of those extra possessions.”

Looking for a spark, Ford put Bumper Pool, the team’s star linebacker, in at quarterback for a key Lovejoy drive in the third quarter. The senior promptly ran for 40 yards on the drive out of the wildcat formation and completed a long pass down the sideline to Beau Iovinelli. Penalties derailed the drive, however, and Lovejoy turned the ball over on downs, giving Lone Star the ball with a 35-9 lead late in the quarter.

A touchdown catch by Pittman pushed the Rangers’ lead to 42-9 and erased any momentum Lovejoy might have gained on the previous drive.

Collins, who returns next year as senior, finished with 186 yards passing.

For continued coverage of the local sport scene, follow @timothyglaze on Twitter.

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