Beating the undefeated: football’s memorable win against Lovejoy

In 2019, the Redhawk football team ended the season 1-9, breaking their 20 game losing streak. Two years later, the Redhawks ended the season 9-1, beating a previously undefeated Lovejoy High School 27-24, in a win that gives the Redhawks a share of the District 7-5A Division II championship. 

Even though the Redhawks entered the game with just one loss, that loss was a 43-7 defeat to Frisco, a team Lovejoy, ranked #2 in 5A Division II, beat 38-15. Those results led to a unanimous prediction of a Lovejoy win by the Dallas Morning News

Despite this, the Redhawks prevailed in a nationally televised game by ESPNU; a game likely to be remembered by all those involved.

The team

“We were doubted heavily by other schools and people around the state,” junior Keldric Luster said. “Everybody thought Lovejoy was going to walk all over us, just because of them being one of the few good teams in the state.”

Pointing at a defender to be blocked, junior Keldric Luster ran for 102 yards on 26 carries, and passed for 303 yards in the Redhawks 27-24 win over Lovejoy. (Jim Klenke)

However, Lovejoy’s reputation didn’t stand in the way of the team’s preparation efforts.

“When we were in the locker room before the game, the coaches told us to just treat it like a regular game,” senior Aaron Rogers said. “That is what we came out and did.”

Senior Sam Wennas applauds the team’s defense and ability to adapt on the fly. 

“As a defense, we adjusted and played perfectly,” Wennas said. “We worked adjusting the motions and stuff so much in practice that I think we did a great job. Everyone put in the work to make the play so I’m thankful for all of them.”

The win came at the end of a 9-1 regular season for the team, who have been aiming for a  district championship all year. 

“It was an amazing feeling being co-district champions,” junior Alex Trevino said. “We all wanted this, we all prepared for this, and we were able to come out the winner. It felt great.”

The coaches 

Thursday’s win was years in the making, with head coach Matt Swinnea having looked forward to this moment since 2019. 

With :14 left on the clock in the fourth quarter and Redhawks clinging to a three point lead, senior Sam Wenaas battles Lovejoy’s Kyle Parker for the ball in the corner of the Leopards end zone. (Jim Klenke)

“It’s truly been a team effort,” Swinnea said. “I have to point to this senior class. That first year of 2019 our slogan and our hashtag was ‘let it begin’ and we had as a goal this moment and you know playing as 15 sophomores as varsity players that first year and just knowing it was going to be a growth process and trusting the process and believing in themselves and so it’s just and it’s just an awesome feeling to know and realize that these kids accomplished what they came out to do.” 

For offensive line coach Allen Harris, the progression from 1-9 to 9-1 can be traced to both the players and Swinnea.  

“I point back to our players who took it upon themselves to come in and put extra work in and to improve,” Harris said. “Coach Swinnea, in my first year here, had visions of this group. Being able to improve and get to this point, you could tell from his first message of that first year. His slogan was ‘it’s time’ like it’s time for Liberty football to return to what it once was, so that was his message there and it’s really grown. From this year, his slogan was ‘one choice’; if we want to do this, we have one choice, and that’s to put the work in every single day, and, you know, fight harder than we fought before”

Beating the state’s #2 team is due to team culture and comradery according to wide receiver coach Kenneth Schiumo Jr. 

“You know, our preparation, and just our ability to play for each other,” Schiumo said. “I mean, it’s so easy to have success when you don’t care who gets the credit. We don’t have those individual personalities on our team, the people that are selfish in their ways. Everybody just wants to win at whatever cost. And, you know, everyone’s super excited for their teammates when they get it done. And, you know, it is a true, selfless team. It’s a family and our team culture really put us over the top in that game.”

The cheerleaders

Senior Reilly Reid, who’s spent four years as a Redhawk cheerleader, has cheered for the team through all the highs and lows since 2018. 

“Seeing them like go from like 0-10 like my freshman year and my senior year, we’re 9-1, I was just like I remember going to every  game freshman year, and just like being so sad, because I know we wanted it so bad, and the boys wanted it so bad,” Reid said. “ I think we all just thought that the cheerleaders, the students, the boys, we all kind of just thought like okay we may lose, okay whatever, and then we lost, but then we started winning again, and we beat Dennison last week, which was so good, and then like winning tonight, like the cherry on top, it was the best.”

The fans

The senior class of 2022 has seen its fair share of obstacles, and after a year away due to COVID-19, many seniors, such as Rylan Worman, were excited to be back in the stands cheering for the now district champions. 

“It was pretty cool to see a lot of people there and it was very exciting also nerve wracking because everyone was like cheering but I feel like everyone thought we were gonna win,” Worman said. “I mean to be honest I don’t know, my freshman year I didn’t really go to that many games so this year I wanted to go to most of them but I’m really happy we went 9-1 because I really like to watch football so to watch a team that wins was great.”

The band

The Redhawk marching band has been with the team every game, providing the soundtrack no matter the score. (Roy Nitzan)

The players aren’t the only ones under the lights every week and the Redhawk marching band has been with the team every game, providing the soundtrack no matter the score. Marching band Drum Major and senior Avarind Dharnalingan reflected on the shared history he has with the players, taking a moment to look back on how far they’ve come together. 

“I’m just really proud of the football team,” Dharnalingan said. “I know Keldric Luster ran so much yesterday. I know Jack Byrant and Sam Wenaas, they all did really good. You know I’ve known these guys since middle school and through high school and the amount of progress they’ve made in four years, switching the score from 1-9 to 9-1, I just don’t know who else could’ve done it.”

The future

The football program has seen it all, but from the field, to the sidelines, to the bleachers, the Redhawk pride over football’s win rings out loud and clear. The team is now looking ahead to playoffs, and Schiumo says this is just the beginning. 

“A lot of people doubted us going in,” Schiumo said. “And, you know, we shocked the world. I mean, literally the world. We’re on national television. So when that game ended, I was so excited for our guys, you know, so excited for our campus culture and our community, and Liberty. Football’s back for sure.”