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Defensive speed key for Lovejoy

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Lovejoy cornerback Rico McWilliams and defensive assistant coach Anthony McIntyre, a Lovejoy graduate, are part of a defensive unit that has not surrendered an offensive touchdown this season.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Lovejoy cornerback Rico McWilliams and defensive assistant coach Anthony McIntyre, a Lovejoy graduate, are part of a defensive unit that has not surrendered an offensive touchdown this season.

Kevin Jones has consistently reminded his defensive unit about the third-quarter touchdown it give up to Glynn Academy in the first round of last season’s playoffs.

That touchdown ended the season for Lovejoy at Twelve Oaks Stadium. It was the only loss of the season for the Wildcats, who had won the Region 4-AAAA championship.

The 7-6 loss to Glynn has served as motivation for the tenth-ranked Wildcats this season.

And so far, it is working.

Through the first four games of this season, Lovejoy has yet to surrender an offensive touchdown to an opponent. The Wildcats defense has not been scored in 16 quarters.

The only score the team has given up came on a third-quarter kickoff return from Mundy’s Mill in the season opener.

“One thing about our defense is our speed, and the team’s eagerness to be better than last season,” said Jones, the defensive coordinator. “That touchdown that we gave up to Glynn comes out my mouth quite a bit. I want to keep us on the edge.”

Whatever Jones is saying, it is definitely working.

It also helped that the team returned six starters, including its entire secondary.

The big question mark coming in this season was the defensive line, which had three players to graduate that received college scholarships. Replacing all-region defensive tackle David Washington was a major chore. Washington signed a scholarship to Kentucky, and the versatile Leander Williams is now at Georgia Southern while Josh Walker is playing at Tuskegee.

“I was very worried about our defensive front,” Jones said. “I knew our linebackers would be solid. I was hoping that the line would hold up.”

And it has with Chris Christian, Veion Robinson and Mike Davis.

Jones said the whole key to the defense has been the play of three-year starter Nathaniel Norwood.

“Most of our opponents gameplan to stop him,” Jones said. “He has the ability to disrupt a lot of things in the middle.”

Heading into Saturday’s Region 4-AAAA contest against Tri-Cities, Norwood has 24 tackles and five tackles for losses. Jones is also excited about a young linebacker group that includes sophomore DeMarquis Gates and junior Eugene Fuller.

“Our entire defense is doing an outstanding job,” Lovejoy coach Al Hughes said. “They were great last year, and just about all of them are back. I think the key has been that this unity has great chemistry. They believe and trust in each other. This group has played together for a while, so that is a big plus for us.”

This week, the Wildcats entered the Associated Press rankings at No. 10. It was the first time Lovejoy had been ranked since the end of last season.

“We know a lot of people won’t respect us until we go deep in the playoffs,” Jones said.

The focus has been to get beyond the first round. Since teams in Region 4-AAAA play a 10-game region schedule, there is no room for any non-region games.

“I know people look at our record, or that our defense hasn’t been scored on and point to it coming against teams in our region,” Jones said. “We are pushing to get to 11, 12, and 13 this season. We slipped on that banana peel last season. This season we are trying to sweep everything off the floor.”