Ralph Rucker

Junior quarterback Ralph Rucker and the Leopards will take on Denton Braswell Friday after their 7-5A DII bye week.

The Lovejoy football team enjoyed an early District 7-5A DII bye last week, which followed up a thorough trouncing of second-year varsity program Frisco Memorial to open league play and boost the Leopards' record to 2-1.

Now, though, the program is likely in for its biggest test of the season, thus far.

The Leopards will hit the road Friday, heading to Denton for a matchup with 2-2 Denton Braswell. Though the Bengals sit at .500, their only league loss came against potential district-title contender Frisco by way of a five-point decision.

"I think Cody Moore's doing a good job over there," said Todd Ford, Lovejoy head coach. "They're coached well. They've got athletes running around, and they're putting them in good positions to be successful. They're doing a lot of good things, so it's going to be a good test for us Friday night."

While the Bengals were beating up on Memorial, themselves, last week, Ford said his Leopards spent their time away from on-field competition honing in on some base concepts and skills.

Getting everything square in the classroom, he said, was a big priority, as was sharpening his athletes' fundamentals. Finally, the third aspect of his program's bye-week work was ensuring the Leopards' bodies were well-taken care of, which Ford said is critical after a lengthy stretch of nonstop work to open the season.

"We wanted to get their bodies right and get their feet underneath them, so to speak," he said. "Get in the weight room and get some quality lifts in, but also try and recover from, basically, a five-week sprint that we've gone on since we started this season. ... Obviously, as a staff, we've been looking into the inner workings of Denton Braswell."

Ford said he expects the Bengals to bring an up-tempo attack that isn't afraid to go over the top of the Leopard defense, which is an aspect of a bye week that can work against Lovejoy with regards to conditioning in the face of that kind of pressure.

Still, Ford said he expects an experienced defensive front to have little trouble adjusting and getting back into the swing of game action quickly.

"First and foremost, what pops out on video is that they're explosive on offense," he said. "They have the ability to throw the football over the top of you and score quickly, and they're a team that wants to play with very, very high tempo. ... Fortunately, we have some experience up front, defensively, so it's not their first rodeo as it pertains to seeing a high-tempo offense."

The Leopards and Bengals will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Denton Bronco Field, with both teams looking for their second conference victory.

"Although it's not their high school, it still is a road game for us," Ford said. "That brings the challenges of taking a young football team out on the road and making sure they embrace the routine and what it takes to go in and play at your best. But that's exciting, too, and we welcome the opportunity. We're excited to go compete.

"I know it's nice to have a little break, but competitors like to get out there and put it out on the line again."

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