Loris said before Friday it wasn’t looking for any moral victories.
The Lions left their Region VIII-AA showdown with Dillon looking for solace.
Courtesy of a late touchdown and two-point conversion, the Wildcats defeated Loris 21-14 and won the region crown. Loris was left knowing it nearly defeated one of Class AA’s best teams one year after Dillon won this matchup 57-0.
It left the Lions ready to keep playing, and hopes of facing off against the Wildcats again.
“I already knew we’re going to face them again in the playoffs,” Loris sophomore Levi Moody said.
That remains to be seen.
What is known already is that Loris (6-3 overall, 3-1 Region VIII-AA) executed a defensive game plan that made this a game. The Lions forced a pair of first-half turnovers, repeatedly stopped Dillon and made sure this one was going to go down to the wire.
In the end, though, Loris couldn’t make up for a strong second-half rushing attack from Anthony and Joe Blue. The pair of Wildcats rushed for 170 and 46 yards, respectively. And Joe Blue’s nine-yard touchdown run with 2:14 put Dillon (8-1, 4-0) ahead for the only time all night.
It was the score that mattered.
Loris was unable to score on its final possession, and the Wildcats ran out the clock and into another region title.
“Lot of missed opportunities,” Loris coach Jamie Snider said. “We had some chances, but it just didn’t work out [in Loris’ favor].”
That doesn’t change the fact that Loris, and specifically it’s defense, came to play.
The Lions didn’t allow a completed pass in the first half, and they gave up a modest 55 yards to starting running back Anthony Blue during that time frame. Blue, who put up 222 yards and three touchdowns last week for the Wildcats, was swarmed by the Lions’ front seven and had just three carries for longer than four yards in the first two quarters.
More importantly, Loris also forced a pair of first-half Dillon fumbles, including one deep in the Wildcats’ territory that four plays later led to a Mykal Soles touchdown pass to Junior Long.
Dillon appeared to get a brief jolt of energy in the second quarter when star running back and East Carolina commit Jabo Lee returned. However, on Lee’s second carry, he was caught in a pile and needed to be carried off the field. Lee, who hasn’t played since the season opener but is still considered to be one of the top running backs in the state, did not return.
Anthony and Joe Blue, however, more than picked up the slack.
Loris won’t have time to feel bad about Friday, though. The Lions head to Aynor next week, and the game will determine which squad finishes second in Region VIII-AA. For Loris, a victory would likely mean a home playoff game.
Loris will play in the Class AA, Division I playoff bracket. Last season, the inaugural year in the new Class AA format, the Lions received a first-round bye before facing eventual state champion Timberland in the second round.
Beating Aynor would surely help Loris’ seeding.
“We’ve got a lot to play for,” Snider said. “Now we’re going to have to move forward.”
L – Ryan Bellamy 69 run (Orlin Mejia kick)
L – Junior Long 23 rec from Mykal Soles (Mejia kick)
D – Joe Blue 3 run (Tara Grimsley kick)
D – Anthony Blue 41 run (conversion failed)
D – J. Blue 9 run (conversion good)