Lovett-Cedar Grove was a competitive tussle between the top team in Class AAA and another ranked ninth.
Until it wasn’t.
No. 1 Cedar Grove (4-0, 1-0 in Region 5-AAA) ran off 35 unanswered points in the second and third quarters to race past No. 9 Lovett (1-3, 0-1), 41-14.
The key to the scoring barrage, and the win, was Cedar Grove’s offensive line and its two-headed running tandem of Darrell Neal II and Chevon Wright. The line -- junior Quentin Eagle, sophomore Brandon Hall, senior Evantae Spencer, junior Michael Brooks and Rogerick Hamilton – dominated the line of scrimmage, giving Neal (185 yards on 22 carries, 1 touchdown) and Wright (95 yards on 10 carries, 1 touchdown) huge running lanes. The unit also provide quarterback Xavier Dennis (two rushing touchdowns) with a clean pocket and room to run as well.
Not to be outdone was the Saint defense. Lovett was able to keep the unit – which has allowed just 20 points in its first three games – off balance early. But Cedar Grove’s defense, led by safety Montre Monfort and defensive linemen Roderic Forts, Justin Harper and Jalen Shaffer, found its footing and shut out the Lions after giving up touchdowns on the Lions’ first two possessions.
Lovett put together a brilliant drive to open the scoring on the first possession of the game. Mixing quick hitches to the flat and zone-read runs, six different Lions touched the ball in a 12-play, 74-yard drive. David Shepherd raced around the right end for an eight-yard touchdown run to put Lovett on top, 7-0. Just as important as the score was the fact that the march took up more than half of the first quarter.
But as methodical as Lovett was on its first possession, Cedar Grove responded explosively. After a short squib kick on the kickoff, the Saints needed just seven plays to go 54 yards, and senior running back Darrell Neal II sprinted up the middle for an eight-yard touchdown. The point after kick failed, preserving Lovett’s lead at 7-6. All seven plays of the drive were running plays, five by Neal, as the Saints offensive line of.
Lovett came right back on its second drive. Shepherd did most of the damage early with a 13-yard run and a 17-yard reception. Then Crawford Schweiger added a key fourth-down conversion run of five yards to set up a well-executed 49-yard pass play on from Blaine McAllister to speedster Peyton Ringer on a deep crossing route, giving Lovett a 14-6 lead early in the second quarter.
That’s when the defending state champions erupted. A 25-yard return by junior Jaden Haselwood, a UGA commit, set the Saints up at their 41-yard line. After a Cedar Grove receiver dropped a sure touchdown pass from Dennis, Neal rambled 38 yards. On the next play, Dennis scored from 21 yards out to narrow the gap to 14-12, after the point after kick was blocked. On Lovett’s ensuing possession, on third-and-10 from the Lions’ 17-yard line, McAllister’s high screen pass to Shepherd went off his finger tips and into the arms of Kortney Cox, who ran into the end zone untouched. Neal’s two-point conversion run gave Cedar Grove its first lead of the game, 20-14.
On Lovett’s next possession the Lions attempted to convert another fourth down, this time with a fake punt from their own 40-yard line on fourth-and-eight. But Evan McKown was tackled for a two-yard loss and Cedar Grove took over on the Lovett 38-yard line. On the Saints’ ensuing drive, on third-and-goal from the six-yard line, Dennis found a diving Haselwood at the front of the end zone. Neal second two-point conversion run of the period gave the Saints a 28-14 lead at halftime.
Cedar Grove put the game away on its first possession of the second half, marching 70 yards in eight plays. Wright’s one-yard touchdown run and the Saints’ only successful point after kick pushed the lead to 35-14 early in the third quarter. Cedar Grove closed the scoring on its next possession, going 54 yards in nine plays, with Dennis scoring his second touchdown of the game, a five-yard run, for the final points of the contest.
Cedar Grove will host Westminster next week, while Lovett will try to bounce back at home against Towers.
Lovett 7 7 0 0 14
Cedar Grove 6 22 13 0 41
L – David Shepherd 8 run (kick good)
CG – Darrell Neal II 8 run (kick failed)
L – Peyton Ringer 49 pass from Blaine McAllister (kick good)
CG – Xavier Dennis 21 run (kick blocked)
CG – Kortney Cox 17 interception return (Neal run)
CG – Jaydon Haselwood 6 pass from Dennis (Neal run)
CG – Chevon Wright 1 run (kick good)
CG – Dennis 5 run (kick failed)