LOCUST GROVE — Following a comeback victory over McIntosh High, expectations for the Luella Lions were high as they took on Region 4-AAAA opponent Druid Hills Friday night at home.
Luella took the lead on an early rushing touchdown, but it took well into the final quarter for the Lions to pull away for their first home win in a year by a score of 25-3.
“It feels good to go into the bye week 2-2. We’re really proud of our kids and they played hard,” Luella head coach Jason Jackson said. “We had some miscues early in the night and everything didn’t work out perfectly. We couldn’t really get nothing going offensively, but defensively we did a pretty good job of just hanging in there and getting stops when we needed to get stops and just keep playing.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he continued. “We just have to keep playing — we’re proud of our kids and we’re gracious enough to get out of here with a win.”
Druid Hills received the opening kickoff and began in the shadow of its own goal post. The Lions’ defense clamped down to force a punt, but a costly roughing the kicker penalty gave the Red Devils another chance to drive down the field.
The Lions held Druid Hills once more to force another punt, this time avoiding the penalty and getting a chance to drive the ball for their own. However, after DJ Conway picked up 14 yards with his legs, Jalen Doby threw an interception on the next play.
The Red Devils moved the ball down the field with the momentum of the interception, reaching the red zone during their drive. However, a fumble on the 9-yard line gave the Lions the ball back.
Both sides couldn’t find the end zone in the first quarter of play. With the ball back in hand after a punt from Druid Hills, Conway rushed for 52 yards. Luella relied on rushes from Conway and Kylief Pagie for the next 21 yards before Doby scooted in on a quarterback keeper for a 7-0 lead.
The second quarter right was much like the first. A penalty erased a 68-yard rush, but Conway got some of those yards back with a 20-yard rush. Doby was intercepted once again though, ending the drive. Druid Hills turned the turnover into points with a 31-yard field goal.
Right after the last interception, an errant pass from Doby once again landed in Druid Hills’ hands. The Red Devils took a knee and went into the halftime trailing 6-3.
“I think Jalen was a little too anxious, we had a good talk at halftime with no yelling or nothing like that and stayed encouraging because we know he isn’t trying to do it on purpose,” Jackson said of his freshman quarterback. “It’s him just trying to do too much and make a little too much happen instead of just trying to get into the flow of the game and stay in the flow of the game. It’ll get better and it’s still a work in progress.”
Once halftime ended, a back and forth battle for field position ended up dominating the third quarter. Neither team was able to reach the end zone or get in a position to kick a field goal.
In the fourth quarter, things finally broke open for the Lions. Pagie broke free for a 38-yard touchdown rush. The Lions soon found another score on a Conway 10-yard rush to put the game away. With the game well in hand, James Jones intercepted the ball from 32 yards out and returned the ball for a touchdown to cap off the scoring.
Luella improved to 2-2 (1-0) on the season ahead of the bye week.
Druid Hills: 0 3 0 0 — 3
Luella: 0 6 0 19 — 25
Luella: Doby 1 run (2-point failed, 6-0, 10:05)
Druid Hills: McQuaig 31 field goal (6-3, 2:58)
Luella: Pagie 38 run, (2 point failed, 12-3, 9:41)
Luella: Conway 10 run (Rippa PAT, 19-3, 3:10)
Luella: Jones 32 interception return (PAT Failed, 25-3, 2:27)