By Jeffery Armstrong
The Lovejoy High School football team may experience some "growing pains" next season, according to Wildcats head football coach Al Hughes.
The pains may not last too long. Despite losing 28 seniors (11 of whom signed college scholarship letters), Lovejoy has 32 seniors returning and several of them had significant playing time last year.
"That's the bonus of having a good football team last year," said Hughes. "A lot of kids got to play and their experience should help us out this fall. We may be a pretty good football team."
Hughes said he was very impressed with his team's spring practice and also said the summer practices are going well.
"Spring practice was one of the best ones we've ever had here," he said. "We got a lot of work done, despite some rainouts. And even when it did rain, we took advantage of the indoor facilities and had great workouts."
Hughes said 140 kids came out for spring practice and they had a nice blend of youth and experienced veterans. Summer practice started June 2, with weight training three days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday) and a passing league on Tuesdays. The players have a choice to either lift weights in the mornings (9-11:30 a.m.) or in the evenings (6-8:30 p.m.).
Hughes said the guys are enthusiastic about lifting weights and seem to be focused on being a better football team and having fun.
Hughes has the luxury of having several good football players returning to a team that finished 9-3 last season, second in Region 4-AAAAA behind the Starr's Mill Panthers. Lovejoy went 1-1 in the state playoffs, trouncing Lowndes 43-3 before losing to Westside-Macon in the second round.
Quarterback Kisan Flakes returns for his senior campaign along with defensive end Jeremy Lomax and tight end Aaron Williams. Flakes led the region in total offense despite starting just eight games.
"We have several skill players returning, especially key players on the offensive and defensive lines," said Hughes. "They're a lot of young guys also jockeying for positions. And having young guys that can play helps your future."
Hughes also mentioned that veteran players Keith Boykins, a senior, and Keith Fitzhugh, a junior, have played in every game since their freshman year.