Blocked punt changes momentum
By Nolan Ruth
The Community News
The first time the Bearcat football team played in 2021, it was pushed to its limits.
In a nail biting matchup that saw five lead changes, Aledo used a strong fourth quarter to prevail over Lucas Lovejoy, 52-48, at Globe Life Park on Friday night, Jan. 1..
“The kids did a really good job in the second half,” head coach Tim Buchanan said after the game. “I’m extremely proud of how they came out and played. Those guys were a good football team.
“Chris Ross is a heck of a football coach. He had our number in the first half and I’m proud of the adjustments we made and the plays we created for ourselves.”
Both teams traded punts to start the game before Aledo (11-1) delivered the first strike on a 20-yard run by Demarco Roberts (34 carries, 261 yards, 3 TDs).
Lovejoy (13-1) responded with a 24-yard field goal to bring the score to 7-3. On the ensuing drive, quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi (6-15, 102 yards, 1 TD) threw to Alabama signee Jo Jo Earle (11 carries, 57 yards, 1 TD, 5 receptions, 94 yards, 1 TD) who took it 50 yards for the score.
Lovejoy struck on a 13 yard pass to bring the score to 14-10 at the end of the first quarter.
Lovejoy rolled in the second quarter, outscoring the Bearcats 21-7. The lone Aledo score came on a 37-yard run by Roberts. The Bearcats trailed 31-21 at halftime.
“We made some crucial adjustments at half,” Roberts said about the message at the half. “Every time we ran zone, they always tried to make us go the opposite way. So we had to adjust to their adjustments.”
The Aledo defense, led by captain Sam Foreman (6.5 tackles, 2 TFL) came up with a crucial stop to start the second half. The offense responded with a long drive that was capped off by a five-yard touchdown run from Earle.
Lovejoy scored on a one yard keeper to bring the third quarter score to 38-28.
Clay Murador got the fourth quarter started with a 43-yard field goal to make it a seven-point game. The Bearcat defense forced a punt on the ensuing drive that was blocked by Oliver Crow. Caden Anderson caught it off the deflection and raced 50 yards to the end zone to tie the game at 38.
“I heard a block and the ball just fell out of the light and into my hands,” Anderson said after the game. “The main goal was to just get as far as I can and get Jo Jo and Demarco the ball to score and get the comeback going.”
After an impressive stand by the Bearcat defense, Lovejoy retook the lead on a 42-yard field goal.
The Bearcats would not be denied though, as Roberts received the ensuing kickoff at his own 10 yard line and raced 90 yards to give the Bearcats the lead for good with a score of 45-41.
The game was far from over though. With half of the fourth quarter to go, the Aledo defense needed to get another stop to help seal the deal. The defensive line came through, only allowing Lovejoy to gain two yards and forcing a punt.
Roberts added one more score for good measure to make it an 11-point lead. Lovejoy scored one more time on a deep pass, but was unable to recover the onside kick, and the Bearcats held on to win 52-48.
“All it took was that one play,” Foreman spoke about what changed for the defense in the second half. “That blocked punt got the snowball rolling and it didn’t stop. After that we were able to get the stops and get our offense the ball back.”
Aledo moves on to the state semifinal the eighth year in a row and will face Wichita Falls Rider at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8, at Apogee Stadium in Denton. The winner of that game will play for the state championship.