Photo by Derrick Mahone
Lovejoy offensive linemen (left-right) Montel Robinson and Malcolm Johnson are first-year starters for the sixth-ranked Wildcats, who play for the school’s first state title on Friday.
Lovejoy offensive coordinator Craig Chatman says his unit will not win any style points.
“What we do is not beautiful and pretty,” Chatman says.
But it is definitely efficient.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats didn’t make it to Friday’s Class AAAA championship game against top-ranked Tucker looking to win an offensive beauty contest. Lovejoy just lines it up and run a steady diet of running back Travis Custis through the middle and around the corner.
The 210-pound junior has rushed for 1,805 yards and 30 touchdowns, and much of that credit has to go to the guys up front.
Coming into the season, the offensive line was thought to be one of the weak spots on a team with several talented skill position players. Senior Jamal Covington was the lone returning starter on the offensive line, which starts a freshman at center.
The coaching staff is quick to point out that the unit has made big strides throughout the course of the season.
“They have come miles and miles from where we were at the start of the season,” Lovejoy head coach Al Hughes said. “I thought we had the potential to be great, but we have several guys that hadn’t played a lick of varsity football.”
Despite its youth, Hughes said, the team didn’t back down from its commitment to running the ball. And throughout the course of the season, the offensive line has jelled into solid unit.
“We have been stubborn in our desire to establish the run,” Hughes said. “We want to give the ball to him (Custis) and wear the defense down. Teams have put eight, nine, 10 and 11 players in the box. Smart coaches would throw the ball. We want to bloody your nose.”
And it has worked.
Last January, Covington said he made a commitment to become the leader of this group, which starts two seniors, two juniors and a freshman.
“It all started with those 6 a.m. workouts in the weight room,” Covington said. “We would talk with coach Hughes about plays. We wanted to be ready to rock and roll when the season started.”
The offense will face its biggest task of the season against a Tucker defense that is considered fast. Tucker is giving up only 204 yards and 12 points per game this season.
“We have a big group that likes to play physical football,” Chatman said. “I certainly feel good about the progress the offensive line has made this season. They have taken it personal that we wanted to come out and run the football.”