Late scoring by Lovejoy subdues Alcovy in region championship game

COVINGTON — Alcovy’s defense kept the team in the game but a couple of mistakes late in the game allowed Lovejoy to put the score out of reach giving the Wildcats their fourth straight region championship with a 27-8 win on Friday at Homer Sharp Stadium.

“We played hard and I take my hat off to my kids. I don’t think we could’ve played any harder. It’s like I told them, two or three plays was the difference in that ball game,” Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffman said.

Alcovy (7-3 overall, 4-2 Region 2-AAAAAA) held the normally explosive Wildcats (9-1, 6-0) offensive to 224 yards. Lovejoy’s offense was held in check with a lot of the disruption caused by the defensive play of Curtiss Benton. Benton, who along with Okon Godwin verbally committed to Appalachian State, put a crimp in the Lovejoy offense with two sacks and several tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Lovejoy’s running game only gained 111 yards on 33 carries while the defense helped cause two interception.

Tristen Payne stopped Lovejoy’s first drive of the game with interception on the Alcovy 33-yard line with Cameron Banks ending the final drive of the first half with a interception inside the Alcovy 5-yard line with less than 40 seconds left to play.

“Defensively we played well, we just need to keep getting better,” Hoffman said. “We’re right where we need to be.”

While the Alcovy defense was able to keep the Wildcats offense off balance, the Lovejoy defense was able to do the same to the Tigers offense.

Alcovy was held to 32 yards rushing and seven yards passing in the first half. Of Alcovy’s 13 possessions, seven ended in punts after three offensive plays.

Alcovy’s only sustained drive, their first of the second half, resulted in a touchdown after seven plays and two offside penalties. After getting the ball on the Lovejoy 29-yard line, Payne was 4-of-4 throwing for 47 yards. He also ran for another 14 yards. The drive ended with a nine-yard throw to Jaylin Penny.

“They’re pretty good defensively. We just have to make some plays. When we did we moved the ball and when we didn’t we didn’t make any plays,” Hoffman said. “That’s going to happen.”

The Wildcats took the lead early in the game with a two-yard jaunt by Jeremiah Kirkland with 1:55 left in the first quarter.

Alcovy took advantage of a Wildcats mistake when a high snap on a punt attempt went out of the endzone making it 7-2 early in the second period.

After Alcovy’s scoring drive gave them the 8-7 lead, a low snap on a punt allowed Lovejoy to turn a Tigers mistake into a 37-yard field goal by Jaime Nunez with :34 seconds left in the third frame.

The Wildcats scored two other times off Alcovy miscues following the field goal. After the field goal, Alcovy fumbled the kickoff inside the 10-yard line but the Tigers defense kept them out of the endzone forcing them to settle for a field goal making it 13-8. The Wildcats pressured Alcovy’s special teams to a one-yard punt allowing them to score a touchdown two plays later.

“You can’t have turnovers,” Hoffman said. “We just have to regroup and get ready for the playoffs.”