Ralph Rucker

Lovejoy junior Ralph Rucker and the Leopards dropped a 59-51, triple-overtime decision to Denton Braswell last week.

The Lovejoy football team came out on the wrong side of a chaotic, triple-overtime contest last week, falling to a much-improved Denton Braswell team by a final count of 59-51.

The extra periods nearly didn’t come to pass at all, as Lovejoy roared back from a 24-7 deficit in the third quarter with a 30-6 run that made it 37-30, Leopards, with just over four minutes remaining.

Instead, though, Braswell had one last bout of regulation heroics, as Cameron Lara punched it in from two yards out to knot the game at 37. A 49-yard field goal that would have given the Leopards the final-seconds win was not to be, and the teams were off to overtime, where the Bengals would eventually come out on top by holding Lovejoy scoreless after a Tristan McClary touchdown run to open the third extra period.

While Lovejoy head coach Todd Ford said he and his staff have done their best to prepare his young program for a situation like Friday’s, all bets are off when the rubber meets the road in a winner-take-all situation.

“In each overtime, there’s a birth, there’s a life and there’s a death. You have to move on very, very quickly, or you’ll get caught up, and I think that’s very, very difficult to practice,” Ford said. “We prepare for those types of situations, but, overall, you can’t inject the crazy emotions that go with an unbelievable catch in the back of the end zone. You can’t practice the sideline piece. …

“It brings about a different setting that really, really requires you to lock it in and take each play, literally, as if it’s your last.”

Ford added that he pinned the eventual defeat in part on his offensive group simply trying to do too much in the final overtime frame to answer a score and a two-point conversion from the Bengals, which produced a sloppier offensive effort that the Leopards had put forth earlier in the contest.

Despite the Leopard defense allowing 609 total yards, 391 of which came through the air, Ford said he isn’t worried about his stoppers.

He likened the matchup to a Big 12 contest, where yardage and points can be essentially thrown out the window in favor of a closer study of different defensive markers, like turnovers. Lovejoy won the turnover battle Friday, 1-0.

“There’s no concern. With four minutes left in the game, we were up 37-30, and we’d given up a lot of yards, but we hadn’t given up a lot of points. … When you get into an overtime situation, you really have to throw everything else out,” he said. “Stats go haywire, and it screws with a lot of point totals and point averages and all that.”

There were also plenty of positives on the offensive side of the football, where junior first-year quarterback Ralph Rucker accounted for seven total touchdowns. The junior threw for five scores on a 26-37, 249-yard effort and rushed for two more in a performance that saw him rack up 163 yards on the turf.

Fellow junior Luke Mayfield was his favored target on the evening, as he hauled in 14 catches for 135 yards and four touchdowns.

Though, when the dust finally settled on Friday’s back-and-forth affair, the Leopards dropped to 1-1 in District 7-5A DII play, Ford said he feels like his team took a step forward in the process.

In particular, he’s proud of his athletes’ comeback effort in the face of their large second-half deficit and of the growth his club experienced, even in defeat.

“It was an eventful night, and I think there’s a lot that we take from it,” he said. “We’ve got a young team, and you learn things through going through the experiences, and that type of overtime setting is something that you take a lot from. You build from that. It starts with really, really being happy with how our kids fought and continued to fight back and fight back and put ourselves in (a position to win).”

Lovejoy will now move on to take on Frisco Lebanon Trail, which edged fellow second-year varsity program Frisco Memorial, 37-35, last week, but has been blown out by Frisco and Denison in its other two conference appearances.

Kick is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Leopard Stadium.

For continued coverage of the local sports scene, follow @TaylorRaglin on Twitter.

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