FRISCO – Even when Lovejoy underwent a complete overhaul on offense this past offseason, first-year head coach Chris Ross knew that his Leopards possessed the talent to be a potent attack.
The players that Ross has at his disposal have backed up his belief in them. Entering Thursday night’s game against Frisco Memorial, Lovejoy has put up at least 48 points in all but one of their first five games. That trend continued against the Warriors.
Lovejoy senior quarterback RW Rucker completed 15-of-18 through air for 273 yards as the undefeated Leopards cruised to a 56-28 rout at Toyota Stadium. Rucker had more touchdowns (four) than incomplete passes (three).
“I have high expectations of the guys,” Ross said. “Offensively, we’ve been pretty good each week. We expect to be good every week. I came from Red Oak and we threw 41 touchdown passes last year. We know how to move the ball.”
The plan coming into the game for Lovejoy (6-0 overall, 4-0 in 7-5A Div. II) was to utilize the deep passing game to take advantage of some mismatches against Memorial’s secondary.
Senior wide-out Reid Westervelt set the tone early, hauling in first-quarter touchdown receptions of 32 and 34 yards. Jaxson Lavender and Luke Mayfield joined in on the action, combining for 145 yards on just nine receptions.
Lovejoy was a balanced attack in this game. The Leopards finished with 495 yards of total offense, including 217 rushing yards. Isaiah Smith led all Lovejoy rushers with 99 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns. Matthew Mainord carried 24 times for 85 yards.
“We felt like we could throw the ball vertically tonight, so we had some things for (Westervelt) and Luke Mayfield and to get them isolated and get the football in their hands,” Ross said. “Jaxson Lavender as well. All three of them are vertical threats. They proved that tonight.”
Lovejoy scored on each of its first seven possessions.
Rucker benefited from excellent pass protection by Lovejoy offensive linemen Gage Harrison, Trent Robinson, Gavin Burkhardt, Parker Braithwaite and Dylan Breaux. The Leopards lost yardage on just one play during the first half.
“The offensive line played lights out tonight,” Ross said.
Lovejoy took advantage of a short field to strike first. Westervelt caught a 32-yard pass on a post route on the fifth play of the first Leopard drive for a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
Memorial (1-5, 0-4) appeared that it was going to answer. Using an up-tempo approach, the Warriors mixed in a combination of throws and running plays by junior quarterback Ethan Lollar to methodically move the ball to the Leopard 35. But, on a fourth-down play, Lollar thought they had daylight to the right, only to be stopped 3 yards short of the marker by Philip Joest.
“Their quarterback is a really good player,” Ross said of Lollar. “He’s a dual-threat guy. He does a really good job of scrambling and picking up yards. Philip Joest, our middle linebacker, dropped into coverage and saw what was going on. They worked that stuff all week long and it showed up in the game. He made a great play.”
Penalties also hurt Memorial’s cause. The Warriors had two holding calls and an illegal man downfield penalty that stalled drives in the first half. The flag for the ineligible player downfield negated a passing play inside Leopard territory. Memorial was flagged eight times for 80 yards.
“We just need to execute better and put some points on the board,” said Derick Roberson, Memorial head coach.
It was all Lovejoy after Joest’s fourth-down stop.
Rucker found the end zone on the ensuing drive on a 6-yard quarterback keeper and then with no time remaining in the first quarter, threw a 34-yard strike to Westervelt for a 21-0 Leopard advantage.
Memorial finally found pay dirt on its next drive. Lollar threw a 14-yard fade pass on the left side of the end zone that senior J’Kolbe Bulock reached in the air to snag. Lovejoy’s lead had been reduced to 21-7.
Bulock led all Warriors in receiving with 81 yards on five catches with two touchdowns. Jeremy Lau went for 74 yards on 10 snags. Tyler Arnold made some tough catches look easy. He finished with 72 yards on seven receptions with one score.
Lollar completed 23-of-32 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
But, Memorial struggled to tame Lovejoy’s offense.
Mayfield hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass on the next Leopard possession, and then with 11 seconds left in the half, Joest ran in from the 1 to make it 35-7 Lovejoy.
Memorial put up more resistance in the second half. The Warriors received a 90-yard kickoff return from Ronald De Madet as well as an Arnold 30-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. Bulock completed the scoring with a 24-yard reception with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
“We’ve got a blue-collar mentality,” Roberson said. “We’re never going to quit, regardless of the score. I’m just proud of them for not hanging their heads and they continued to fight. It was just too little, too late.”