By Anthony Rhoads
The Lovejoy Wildcats might be one of the favorites to win the 2004 Region 4-AAAAA championship but don't tell that to head coach Al Hughes.
In the annual Region 4-AAAAA Pre-season Coaches/Media Poll that was released Monday, Lovejoy was picked to finish second to Newnan.
Even though Lovejoy went 10-0 in the regular season last year and made it to the second round of the Class AAAAA state tournament, Hughes views 2004 as a rebuilding year.
The Wildcats are losing some 30 seniors, 11 of whom signed collegiate scholarships including quarterback Kisan Flakes (Illinois), defensive lineman Jeremy Lomax (Georgia) and offensive/defensive lineman Anthony Parker (Tennessee).
"This is going to be a rebuilding year for us," Hughes said at the media day, held Monday in Newnan.
Newnan garnered eight first-place votes and 83 total points in the poll. Lovejoy trailed with five first-place votes and 80 total points.
Last year, Newnan made it all the way to the Class AAAAA semi-finals, beating perennial state power Parkview in the final eight. In the final four, Newnan lost 20-10 to eventual state champion Camden County.
East Coweta was third in the poll, followed by Starr's Mill, Fayette County, Mundy's Mill and Union Grove.
Mundy's Mill went 5-5 last year playing a non-region varsity schedule in just its second year of existence.
"This region is about football," Estes said. "This is big-time football; hopefully, we'll be competitive."
At Union Grove High School, Mike McDonald is entering into his first season as a head coach. McDonald is a Morrow High School graduate and played on the 1987 team that won the Class AAAA state championship.
McDonald knows Union Grove might have a tough time in the region this year as the team is moving up from Class AA. The Wolverines went 5-5-1 last year, losing in the first round of the state playoffs. They went 10-3 in 2003 and advanced to the quarterfinals where they lost to Americus.
"We know it's going to be tough for us but we hope to go out and be competitive every Friday night," McDonald said.
The 2004 season kicks off Aug. 19 when Lovejoy and Mt. Zion play at Tara Stadium.