The Class AA champion Lions were aggressive from the start and held on to defeat No. 1 ranked and previously undefeated Lamar County 14-7 to win only the school’s second state crown since the Lions began playing in 1960.
A large and vocal Lovett crowd, including some players from the last state title team in 1970, were on hand to see Grant Haley’s 41-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter prove to be the difference as Lovett avenged a quarterfinals loss to the Trojans in last year’s state playoffs.
Lovett, 14-1, clearly showed it came to play by converting an onside kick to begin the game and the Lions remained assertive throughout the contest against a speedy Trojan team that came in averaging 42 points per game.
After a scoreless opening quarter, the Lions struck first with an 8-yard scoring pass from Willie Candler to Jack McGranahan that capped an eight-play, 49-yard drive in the second quarter. Candler finished the game 8 of 9 passing for 77 yards. But Lamar County, 14-1, quickly countered with nine-play, 65-yard march to even the score on Quentin Frazier’s 11-yard run.
The game remained tied until Haley’s scoring streak down the right sideline with 8:09 left in the third quarter. The senior Vanderbilt commitment finished with 134 yards rushing on 22 carries. In their playoff win over the Lions in 2012, the Trojans held Haley to only 44 yards rushing on 14 carries. Haley wasn’t alone in backfield production, though, as Murphy Lee added 98 yards rushing, including 48 in the final quarter when the Lions grinded out a pair of late first downs to wind down the clock.
The Trojans got the ball back near midfield in the game’s final moments, but Lovett’s Bear Jameson sacked Lamar County quarterback Lance Austin on the game’s final play to send the Lions and their faithful into a frenzied celebration.
Jameson and Jack Gearon each had two tackles for loss on the afternoon as the Lions held the explosive Lamar County offense to just 182 total yards. The Lions had 353 total yards, including 276 yards on the ground.
Lovett’s victory marked the first state championship for a private school above the Class A level since 2003 (Marist) and also was the first state title for a Buckhead school since Westminster claimed the 1978 crown.
Patch will have more coverage of this historic victory for the Lions.
- Hunt Archbold contributed to this story