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Playoff push tightens for teams

By Anthony Rhoads

The Lovejoy Wildcats are 8-0, they're ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press high school football poll and they've already clinched a spot in the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

But head coach Al Hughes isn't quite ready to talk about post-season glory just yet. He's more concerned about the last two games of the season against Region 4-AAAAA rivals McIntosh and Riverdale.

"We've made the playoffs but where we finish in the standings hasn't been decided yet," Hughes said. "We all know how tough Riverdale is; every time we've played them it's been a war. McIntosh beat Riverdale and they could beat us."

Lovejoy travels to McIntosh (3-6) tonight and Hughes isn't taking the Chiefs lightly, who are coached by former Mt. Zion assistant Butch Prosser.

"Coach Prosser does a great job; he always has," Hughes said. "He gets a lot out of his players. They're always well-prepared."

Lovejoy is on pace for its first undefeated regular season since 1999 when the team won 11 straight games before falling in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.

"We have a good football team. I think we're doing okay but it's not over until it's over," Hughes said. "We're just taking it as it comes and right now we have to worry about McIntosh."

Lovejoy is first in Region 4-AAAAA and Newnan and East Coweta are tied with 5-1 region records. If the playoffs started now, Riverdale would be the fourth seed out of Region 4. Riverdale is currently 5-3 overall and 2-3 in region play.

In the first round, Region 4 teams would play teams out of Region 1. This week, the top teams in Region 1 are Valdosta, Lowndes, Coffee and Colquitt County.

In Region 2-AAAAAA, Mt. Zion is vying for a playoff spot. If the Bulldogs beat Houston County this Saturday, they would clinch the No. 3 seed. By the time the regular season ends, Mt. Zion could finish as high as second place in the region standings.

"We've still got a shot at second and that's what we're playing for right now," Mt. Zion head coach Jackie Green said. "We're still in good shape right now."

Northside-Warner Robins is currently first in the region at 7-0 overall and 6-0 in the region. Mt. Zion and Westside-Macon both are 6-2 overall and 6-1 in region play. Warner Robins is fourth at 6-2 overall and 5-2 in the region.

In the tournament, Region 2 will play Region 3. Camden County, the No. 1 team in the state, leads Region 3. Other top teams in Region 3 are Beach, Groves and Bradwell Institute.

In Henry County, Union Grove will be going to the playoffs out of Region 5-AA. The Wolverines clinched a spot in the state tournament last week with a victory over Carver-Atlanta.

"That's not what we want," Union Grove head coach Scott Mason said. "We want to win our last two games to get second place in the region."

Last year, Union Grove won the Region 5-AA championship and finished 8-2 in the regular season. The Wolverines advanced to the Class AA quarterfinals before falling to Americus.

"We would like to do even better this year," Mason said. "It's not going to mean much to make it to the playoff and lose in the fourth round."

If Union Grove (4-3-1 overall, 2-1 in Region 5-AA) beats Blessed Trinity tonight and Grady next week, the team will clinch second place in the region.

Decatur, the No. 5-ranked team in Class AA, leads Region 5-AA with an 8-0 overall record and a 3-0 region record.

Grady and Union Grove at tied for second and Blessed Trinity is fourth.

Region 5 teams will play Region 8 in the playoffs. Buford, the defending Class AA state champion, leads Region 8. Other top teams in Region 8 are Wesleyan, Greater Atlanta Christian and Lumpkin County.