Whitewater earns first playoff win in school history, 23-21 over Lovejoy

Fri, 11/16/2007 - 11:09pm
By: Kevin Wandra
Right up until the start of the biggest game of his life, Whitewater Wildcats quarterback David Byrd was sick, battling a fever and still recovering from vomiting, aches and pains from the previous night.

There was a chance he wouldn't play in Whitewater’s first-round playoff game against the Lovejoy Wildcats.

Good thing he did.

Byrd showed no effects of a long, rough night in bed, accounting for all three of Whitewater’s touchdowns in its first playoff victory in school history Friday, 23-21 over visiting Lovejoy in the opening round of the state playoffs.

"I had a headache, I was aching, I was running a fever, threw up," Byrd said. "Yesterday, I didn't feel good at all. I didn't even come to school. I didn't even practice.

"I didn't even know I was going to be able to play, but I was going to play either way. I feel great right now."

Said Whitewater coach Amos McCreary: "David did a great job. All year long there has been pressure on David to do this and do that. Tonight, right here, home crowd, first playoff, David Byrd had been working for this game all his life."

Lovejoy consistently ran behind massive left tackle Andre Harris' (6-4, 310) in the first half, and its game plan paid off, as running back Tim Jackson scored on a 7-yard run off left tackle in the first quarter and Spencer Nelson scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter to put Lovejoy in front 14-0.

Whitewater appeared to be deflated, but it received the break it desperately needed with 7:21 left in the half, when Lovejoy’s Stephan Cooper let a punt slip through his hands and Whitewater linebacker Ryan Hidalgo, hustling downfield, pounced on the ball at Whitewater’s own 39-yard line.

Five plays later, Byrd connected with a wide-open Tyler Morgan on a 25-yard touchdown pass.

Whitewater got the ball first in the second half, but its opening drive of the half stalled at its own 41 and it was forced to punt. But on the punt, Lovejoy was called for a penalty, giving Whitewater enough yardage for a first down.

Instead of punting again, Byrd (12 rushes, 80 yards) marched Whitewater downfield, capping a nine-play, 57-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown dive that made it 14-13 with 4:12 remaining in the third quarter.

Whitewater need the point after to tie the game, but it failed to get the kick off due to an errant snap.

Whitewater’s next drive, following an interception by linebacker Justin Forrester, concluded with Jennings kicking a 33-yard field goal to make it 16-14 with 38.2 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Byrd struck again with 4:03 left in the fourth quarter, scoring on a 19-yard run up the middle that completed a 12-play, 96-yard drive that chewed up approximately six minutes and increased Whitewater’s lead to 23-14.

All but one play on the drive were runs.

Nelson answered almost immediately, taking the ball down the left sideline for a 60-yard touchdown run on the first play of Lovejoy’s ensuing possession to slash Whitewater’s lead to 23-21.

Lovejoy attempted an onside kick to get the ball back, but Whitewater’s Thomas Frierson recovered the kick to essentially end the game.

McCreary said the victory was one of the most memorable of his coaching career.

"I'm living in the moment right now," McCreary said. "It's one of the biggest victories I've ever had."

A deciding factor was the play of Whitewater's senior-laden offensive line — Sam Ernst, Kyle Bowman, Ryan Dettmering, Seth Wilkinson and Frank Eubanks — which created gaping holes for Byrd and bruising fullback Collin Wooddy (22 carries, 110 yards), who picked up tough yards between the tackles all night, and allowed Whitewater to eat up the clock, keeping Lovejoy’s explosive offense off the field.

Its experienced offensive line was the primary reason Whitewater was able to rack up 276 yards of total offense, including 251 yards rushing.

Whitewater (9-2) will play at undefeated Thomas County Central (11-0) next week. Thomas County Central defeated Brunswick 44-13 in the first round of the playoffs Friday.

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SARAHHCOOK's picture
Submitted by SARAHHCOOK on Wed, 11/21/2007 - 3:48pm.


"You can't change the past, but you can change how you look it."

Fyt35's picture
Submitted by Fyt35 on Sat, 11/17/2007 - 10:43am.

Great win Wildcats, you guys deserve it, you fought hard and you earned the win after being down 14-0. That Lovejoy line was huge, a couple over 300+, a handful at 250 or more, wow! David Byrd, by far your best game of the season, good job kid.
It goes without saying, we have our hands full with TCC, and they are a very good team. See ya'll in Thomasville!

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