This time, however, the surge fell just short as the Lions saw their season and state title hopes come to an end with a 34-28 loss Friday at Conley-Oakley Field.
Lovett (8-5) fell behind 13-0 in the first quarter and trailed 34-21 with 1:40 remaining in the game when it bounced back with Willie Candler’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Winn Martin with 12 seconds left in the game.
But, that was as close as the Lions would get. Lamar County (12-0-1) held on for the win and advanced to a semifinal showdown Friday at top-ranked Calhoun.
“We’ve been doing it all year long,” Lovett coach Mike Muschamp said. “We’ve been in those situations before, and they just kept on battling and kept on trying to make plays. We just ran out of time.”
Candler completed 13 out of 16 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 80 yards on 15 carries and another score to lead Lovett.
Lamar County came out strong as Antwan Wallace scored on a 34-yard run with 6:40 remaining in the first quarter and Jeremy Fletcher ran 2 yards for a touchdown with 21 seconds left in the quarter to put the Trojans ahead 13-0.
Lovett cut the lead to 13-7 on Candler’s 42-yard scoring pass to Will Geraghty and Brendan McGowan’s extra-point kick with 8:36 remaining in the first half, but Lance Austin’s 33-yard touchdown run with 6:16 left pushed Lamar County’s advantage back up to 20-7.
But, Lovett answered back in a big way as Grant Haley stormed down the field on the kickoff return for a 95-yard touchdown run and McGowan added an extra point with 6:01 left to help the Lions reduce the Lamar County advantage to 20-14.
The Trojans would have the final word in the first half, however, as Austin threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Sidarius Gotell and Scandrett booted the extra point with three seconds left to give them a 27-14 lead at halftime.
Lovett closed the gap again at the beginning of the second half when Candler scored on a 7-yard run and McGowan made the extra point with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter to reduce the gap to 27-21.
But, Lamar County put the game out of reach when Lance Austin fired a 34-yard scoring strike to Lawrence Austin and Scandrett converted the extra-point kick with 1:40 left in the game.
For Muschamp, Lamar County’s superior athleticism and speed proved to be the difference.
“It’s hard to re-create their speed,” he said. “We just don’t have that factor at practice. The kids try hard at practice, but the speed factor is everything and we just can’t recreate it. They came out so fast and we tried to react to it — we kind of got stunned a little bit. We recovered in the second half, but the first half — it was like getting punched in the face.”
Lovett senior linebacker and co-captain John Coletti, who led the defense with 6½ tackles, was proud of his team’s effort in the game as well as the season.
“We’ve come back in every game we ever played,” Coletti said. “This team has a lot of heart and we showed that the whole season. We played a heck of a game — it just wasn’t enough at the end. But, we’ve overcome so many obstacles and won so many tough battles. You couldn’t ask for a better season.”