Football ends season in area playoffs

The football team found itself in a tough spot on the week of October 7. The team had just lost its fifth consecutive game to begin the season and found itself in the basement of the District 15-5A standings.

But after the week of October 7, the narrative completely changed. Rested and recovered, the team closed out the season on a five game winning streak and subsequently extended its winning streak to six games with a win over Sulphur Springs in the first round of the playoffs.

The victory over Sulphur Springs would serve as one of the biggest highlights of the season for the Leopards, who ultimately fell to the Lone Star Rangers in the subsequent round of the playoffs and finished the season with a 6-6 overall record and a 5-2 district record, good for third place in the district.

Head coach Todd Ford said that his team did not make any major adjustments during the bye week, but rather his team recovered and got back to the fundamentals of the game.

“It wasn’t anything overly dramatic,” Ford said of the team’s approach to the bye week. “We used it to rest and recover, to get our injured players healthy, and we went back to the fundamentals.”

Ford also highlighted the team’s success in the bi-district championship against Sulphur Springs as a result of the team hitting its stride in all three phases of the game during the stretch run of the season.

“When you get into the playoffs, you want to be well-rounded in all three phases, and you want to be playing well in all three phases,” Ford said. “I thought it was a well-rounded game, and that was exciting.”

Unfortunately for the Leopards, the next round of the playoffs against Frisco Lone Star did not go the way the team would have hoped. Senior linebacker Bumper Pool said that the final game was not an accurate reflection of what the team was able to accomplish during the season.

“It was kind of one of those moments where we went so far from where we came during the season,” Pool said. “That was a good football team we played, but we just had a couple of bad breaks.”

Pool, who will enroll at Arkansas next semester to play linebacker for the Razorbacks, said that the game against Lone Star allowed him to reflect on his personal high school career.

“For my career personally, it was kind of a relief, as I did everything I could,” Pool said. “I put everything in I had for the Lovejoy Leopards for four years.”

“I wasn’t necessarily sad at the end of the game, but [I was] kind of more honored to have played for Lovejoy for four years and [to be part of] everything we have done,” Pool said.

Senior defensive end Greyson Finch said that the memories of his high school career go beyond the 2017 season.

“I remember it like it was yesterday being on the scout team getting pounded by the big [upperclassmen] as an underclassman, and now I will never play another football game again,” Finch said. “It’s crazy. Time flew by, but it was a good four years.”

Finch added that the 2017 season is epitomic of the notion of finishing strong.

“I think we definitely showed everybody and the younger guys [in our program] that it’s not about how you start; it’s about how you finish,” Finch said. “I think we set a good playoff expectation of what the team is capable of [accomplishing each year].”