LUCAS — In the final game of the 2017 Royse City Bulldogs’ football season, the Lovejoy Leopards escaped with their playoff position intact, but the Bulldogs made them fight for every down of it.
A loss to Royse City would have eliminated the Leopards from playoff contention, and Lovejoy began the game on a high note, taking an early two-touchdown lead.
Leopard Jahi Rainey bulled his way into the end zone just 47 seconds into the first quarter and Tyler Loop kicked the extra point.
Down 7-0, the Bulldogs responded with a 71-yard drive capped off by a 10-yard touchdown run by sophomore Payton Petroff. But the celebration did not last long as the Leopards blocked the Bulldogs’ extra point attempt, making the score 7-6 with 8:37 to play in the first quarter.
Lovejoy answered with a 69-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 46-yard touchdown pass to Chase Van Wagoner from quarterback Carson Collins. Loop’s point-after kick was good for a 14-6 lead with 7:16 remaining in the first quarter.
The next big play was Lovejoy intercepting Bulldog quarterback Matthew Yelverton’s pass on the Royse City 22-yard line. Two plays later, Lovejoy’s star linebacker, Bumper Pool, took a snap at quarterback and scored on a 17-yard run. The PAT was good for a 21-6 first half Lovejoy lead that stood up after each team had a field goal attempt blocked.
Royse City came roaring back in the third period as senior linebackers Zhe Brown, Zayne Mendoza, Thatcher Davis and Garrett Smith began to dominate Lovejoy’s offensive unit.
Completing a 63-yard drive, Matthew Yelverton connected with brother Elijah Yelverton on a 35-yard touchdown pass with 5:34 to play in the third stanza. Dre Prox completed a flea-flicker pass to quarterback Matthew Yelverton for the two-point conversion as Lovejoy’s lead was cut to 21-14.
Bulldog Brendon Tucker recovered the ensuing kickoff at the Lovejoy 25-yard line, which ultimately led to a 21-yard Mendoza field goal.
The final quarter opened with Royse City pounding the football past the Leopards. Senior Bulldog tailback Dre Prox picked up 30 yards on three carries as Royse City again drove to the Lovejoy 6-yard line, but again had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Mendoza.
With 8:41 to play in the game, the Lovejoy fans were very silent, but the Leopards (helped by a pair of 15-yard penalties against the Bulldogs) scored a clinching touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Collins to Jake Iovinelli.
The extra point was good by Loop and Lovejoy took a 28-20 lead with 5:19 to play.
Lovejoy, with the help of a 33-yard run by Pool, ran out the clock after Royse City’s next possession failed to produce a first down.
Lovejoy will face Sulphur Springs at Sulphur Springs on Friday in the opening rounds of the 5A playoffs.
2017 Royse City Football at a Glance:
The Bulldogs finished with a 4-6 record and in 6th place in District 15-5A.
Royse City rushed for 2,232 yards and passed for 1,051 as a team. The top single-game rushing total was 389 yards vs. North Garland with the top passing total being 171 vs. Forney.
The most points scored by the Bulldogs in a single game was 41 against North Garland and the least points scored was 3 against West Mesquite.
Royse City scored 254 points this season and yielded 329 points to 10 opponents.
Players of the Year-
Offensive Player of the Year — Senior Dre Prox went out with another brilliant performance rushing for 130 yards against the Lovejoy Leopards. Prox ended his one and only Bulldog season with a 10-yard per carry average rushing for 970 yards on 97 carries and 9 touchdowns. He also had 190 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns for a total of 1,160 total yards and 11 touchdowns.
In addition, he completed a two-point conversion pass and had a 16.6 yard average on kickoff returns.
Prox was the fourth-leading rusher in the district and had the district’s longest run from scrimmage with an 80-yard touchdown run against Highland Park.
Defensive Player of the Year — Linebacker Zhe Brown transferred to Royse City his sophomore season and made an immediate impact. In 2017, he missed only one defensive snap all year.
Brown also may have been the hardest hitting linebacker in District 15-5A. Brown led his team in tackles with 90 with 6 tackle for a loss. He caused 4 fumbles, recovered a fumble and had one pass interception.