5A Region 2 Division 2 Area Round
Lone Star Rangers (10-1) VS Lovejoy Leopards (6-5)—Sat., Nov. 25th – AT&T Stadium
District 15-5A’s third-seeded Lovejoy Leopards, similar to Frisco’s Centennial Titans, had a curious path to the postseason. Whereas the Titans found themselves winning when it counted most to make the postseason, the Leopards of Lovejoy had a season so bipolar that it’s easily split into two halves.
During their first five games of the regular season, the Leopards were easily dispatched by each of their weekly foes—two of which were 13-5A’s very own Lone Star Rangers (more on that later) as well as the Wakefield Wolverines. Lovejoy was roundly pounded by an average of 28 points over those five weeks; averaging just 11 points per contest while allowing a whopping 39.
If the first half was their Mr. Hyde—gruesome in terms of turnout for the Lovejoy faithful—then their second half was clearly the work of Dr. Jekyl, calculatingly close games, where their average margin of victory was just 15 points, including a Week 8 win of just two points—but victories nonetheless. Hey, each win was far from dominating, but as they say in medical school, the graduating candidate with the lowest GPA is still called “Doctor.”
Led by QB by outstanding pocket-passer Carson Collins (2,724 yds, 23 TDs, 7 INTs), whose key targets are WRs Chase Von Wagoner (926 yds, 9 TDs) and Jacob Terwillinger (812 yds, 8 TDs), the Leopards, finally started clicking in Week 6, as they put up 63 points against Forney. And they haven’t looked back since, reeling off their impressive win streak that is still going strong, thanks to that Bi-district beatdown of Sulpher Springs last week.
The Leopards are not just a purely pass-happy offense though, to be certain, as they get a solid ground game week-in and week-out by RBs Jahi Rainey (779 yds, 6 TDs) and the awesomely-named Bumper Pool (190 yds, 6 TDs) who doesn’t tote the rock too much, but when he does he often finds the end zone.
But just as Lovejoy’s story has been a tale of two halves, the Lone Star Rangers’ folklore has been building for years, as just two seasons ago they were the State Runner-ups. As impressive as this year’s Rangers squad has been, their feats are made even more astounding since they are winning without four-year starter Jason Shelley, the do-it-all QB extraordinaire who is currently calling the shots for the Utah Utes.
In Shelley’s place is M.J. Rivers (3,173 yds, 43 total TDs) a Prestonwood Christian transfer who has done about as good a job of filling in for Shelley as can be possibly expected.
Just as the Leopards took some time to bloom this year, Rivers, too, has improved steadily, especially in his passing game. This leads us to the Week 3 matchup between the Rangers and the Leopards. In that 35-3 win over the then-hapless Leopards, M.J. Rivers was very good—with 256 yds and 3 TDs combined—but he was just 7 for 16 in pass attempts, far below his full-season completion precision of 65%.
So, in short, can the team on a hot streak possibly compete with one of the top teams left in the playoffs, who—much like Lovejoy—have upped their game in recent weeks? Is momentum enough?
Talent tends to beat momentum. That is not to take away from the difficulty of putting together a six-game winning streak in spite of starting off 0-5, as Lovejoy has done. But as we’ve known for some time, the Rangers are not just good, they’re next-level.
Also, let’s not forget that the Lone Star Rangers are currently on a seven-game win streak of their own. Should make for a fun showdown.
The winner of this Area Round matchup will square off against the winner of 10-5A’s Waxahachie Indians (7-4) and South Oak Cliff (9-2) of 11-5A.
For more about this week’s Lone Star VS Lovejoy matchup, check out the HS Football Rundown Podcast (audio).