ARLINGTON — Quarterback RW Rucker threw for 364 yards and eight touchdowns, six of them to Reid Westervelt, to lead Lovejoy to a 64-50, come-from-behind victory over Mansfield Timberview in a Class 5A Division II regional semifinal playoff game on Thursday at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
The two teams combined for 58 first downs and over 1,100 yards of total offense, 715 of which came in the first half.
“What an exciting and intense game,” said Chris Ross, Lovejoy head coach. “We figured some things out at halftime defensively, but hats off to Timberview. They are a well-coached, talented team who came ready play today.”
Timberview (11-2) rushed for 305 yards in the first half alone, paced by Deuce Jones and quarterback Simeon Evans, who ran for 141 and 110 yards, respectively.
“Those are both Division I college players if you ask me,” said Ross, in his first year at the helm for the Leopards (13-0). “They were running wild in the first half and we really didn’t have an answer.”
It was frenetic from the start, as the teams traded touchdowns before the Wolves went up 22-15 after Ricky Madison scampered in from the 24-yard line with just over two minutes left in the first quarter. After forcing a turnover on the ensuing kickoff, Timberview increased the lead to 29-15 when Evans found Mondrai Hogg over the middle for a 14-yard touchdown strike with 38 seconds remaining in the quarter.
After again exchanging touchdowns to start the second quarter and a 36-22 Timberview lead, Lovejoy scored five unanswered touchdowns to break open the game.
“To hold them to just two scores in the second half after what they did to start the game was an accomplishment in itself,” Ross said. “Philip Joest and really the entire defense came up huge in the second half, limiting that explosive offense to 14 points speaks volumes.”
Rucker and Westervelt connected for three touchdowns during the 35-point run to tilt the game in Lovejoy’s favor. With much of the focus on Westervelt, who finished 213 yards on 11 receptions, Rucker was able to utilize senior wide receiver Luke Mayfield on single coverage for much of the second half.
Mayfield hauled in seven receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown.
“Rucker is the toughest football player I’ve ever coached,” Ross said. “He ceases to amaze me game in and game out … very proud of him and the entire team”.
The Wolves, who upset top-ranked Ennis last week, had no give up.
Timberview cut the lead to 64-50 when Evans, an Army pledge, connected with Jones on a 5-yard touchdown pass with just over six minutes left in the half. Lovejoy’s Chief Collins recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the Leopards were forced to punt with a little more than four minutes left in the game.
Timberview drove down to the Lovejoy 25-yard line but could extend the drive and turned the ball over on downs after four incomplete passes.
“Collins played a heck of a game tonight and was all over the field, ball-hawking,” Ross said. “He and Joest spearheaded our defense in the second half.
Lovejoy advances to the fourth round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and faces defending 5A Division II state Aledo, set for 11 a.m. Thursday back to Globe Life Park.