Pride takes precedence for Wildcats, Raiders

By Doug Gorman

There won't be a whole lot a stake Saturday night when the No. 6 ranked Lovejoy Wildcats take on Riverdale in the final game of the regular season for both clubs.

Accept for community pride.

With a 9-0 record and the Region 4-AAAAA title all ready clinched, Lovejoy knows it will be at home when the first round of the state playoffs opens in two weeks.

Riverdale, which is 6-3 overall, is also headed for the playoffs and will go in as the No. 4 seed.

Still don't expect either coach to turn this into a showcase for members of the junior varsity.

"This is a big county rivalry," said Lovejoy coach Al Hughes. "Coach (Rodney) Hackney has done a great job with Riverdale and we look for it to be a good game."

One of the things at stake for the Wildcats is a possible undefeated regular season.

Before the start of the season Region 4-AAAAA coaches and members of the media picked the Wildcats to win the region.

That vote is starting to look prophetic.

However, media accolades don't seem to faze Hughes one way or another.

That's why he doesn't pay attention to the fact that his undefeated team has been stuck in the No. 6 spot of the Class AAAAA AP poll for several weeks even though there are teams ranked ahead of Lovejoy with a loss on their record.

"I leave that to you guys (in the media)," he said. "We are just worried about going out there and playing football. We know where we want to be at the end of the season."

Hughes, who was a long-time assistant coach at Lovejoy under C.W. Campbell, then took over the program when Campbell elected to retire from coaching in 2001.

Lovejoy has continued to win football games under Hughes, who is 28-5 in three seasons with the Wildcats.

Hackney also began his head coaching career at Riverdale in 2001, and the Raiders are about to return to the playoffs for the third time.

A year ago, Riverdale was forced to forfeit several of its games after reporting to the Georgia High School Association that it had used an ineligible player.

The violation came at the end of the season and after the team advanced to the first round of the playoffs, losing to Valdosta.

Riverdale has played with a split personality at times this season, winning its first four games, including a victory against Starr's Mill, before dropping three straight games.

One of those loses came to McIntosh.

Riverdale has recovered during the last two week's with fins against Fayette County and Carver-Columbus.

"We are going to have to find away to stop their speed seed," Hughes.

Lovejoy will send its high-powered offense against Riverdale. The Wildcats have scored at least 28 points in every game with their closest victories coming in a back-to-back 28-17 victories against East Coweta and a 28-18 win against Newnan.