Jeff Hunrdon Photography: Lovejoy storms the field at the start of their Class AAAA championship game Friday at the Georgia Dome.

Jeff Hunrdon Photography: Lovejoy storms the field at the start of their Class AAAA championship game Friday at the Georgia Dome.

With the 2012 high school football schedules released, we take a look at the most compelling games for Southern Crescent fans.

Luella at Lowndes, Aug. 31

Any trip to Valdosta to play the Vikings for a Southern Crescent team is a trip worth mentioning. Lowndes has won three state titles under head coach Randy McPherson, most recently in 2007, and is always loaded with talent. Luella may be uniquely suited as an underdog. The Lions are no strangers to elite competition after playing in Region 2-AAAAA last season.

2012 Southern Crescent High School Football Schedules

A look at the 2012 high school football schedules for Clayton and Henry county teams.

Riverdale vs. North Clayton, Aug. 31

A year ago, Riverdale opened the season making North Clayton earn every bit of its 7-0 victory. Perhaps it’s a sign that the gap has narrowed between the rival schools. The talent on defense should be particularly compelling to watch, especially with Riverdale seniors Jordan Sydney and Troy Wyche.

Stockbridge at M.L. King, Sept. 1

Stockbridge opens the season on a Saturday and takes on one of the state’s most consistent programs. M.L. King went 12-1 last season, and return Division I prospects Joshua Outlaw (committed to Florida) and Jacarthy Mack (committed to Louisville). It should be a good test for a Stockbridge program coming off its first state playoff victory in school history.

Clinch County at ELCA, Sept. 7

When last these teams met, it was in the 2010 Class A quarterfinals as the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked teams. Clinch County pulled out a dramatic 34-27 victory on its way to the state title. ELCA went home wondering how close it came to a state title. The rematch won’t count for nearly as much — it’s a non-region game — but should be a good test for two programs with state title aspirations.

Drew vs. Riverdale, Sept. 7

Drew made the playoffs in just its second year of varsity competition and did it with players who once expected to attend Riverdale. The proximity of the schools certainly makes this a rivalry waiting to happen, and Riverdale appears headed in the right direction after head coach Olten Downs’ first year ended at 4-6 with impressive performances against Jonesboro and Lovejoy.

Lovejoy at Colquitt County, Sept. 7

The Wildcats announced their presence last season with their first trip to the state title game in school history, losing to Tucker. With a host of Division I talent back, what better way to prepare for another playoff run than a trip to Colquitt County, who has made three straight semifinal appearances. Both teams should be ranked in the top 10.

Alpharetta at Lovejoy, Sept. 14

Here’s another great test for Lovejoy: a visit from an Alpharetta team coming off a school-record 9-win season and absolutely loaded with Division I talent. It should be a great quarterback dual between Alpharetta’s Joshua Dobbs and Lovejoy’s Alejandro Bennifield, and another chance for the Wildcats to notch a win against a top-10 team on their resume.

Jonesboro at Griffin, Sept. 14

One of the season’s ultimate revenge games. The Cardinals looked poised to win just their second state playoff game in school history last season, until the Bears bested them in a 49-42 shootout victory. Now they find themselves in the same region again. This game might decided first place in their sub-region, but it will definitely be entertaining.

Riverdale at Dutchtown, Sept. 21

This region cross-over game should be exciting to watch, not just because it features two playoff caliber teams, but for the individual match-ups. Like watching Riverdale linebacker Troy Wyche try to chase down Dutchtown quarterback Donovahn Jones. That’s if Bulldogs offensive lineman Jordan Harris doesn’t get to Wyche first.

Jonesboro at Eagle’s Landing, Sept. 21

The score won’t be the thing to watch in this game. The Cardinals are sure to be much deeper and talented across the board than Eagle’s Landing. But watching Jonesboro defensive backs Taurean Ferguson and Cameron Sutton trying to guard Golden Eagles 6-foot-6 tight end Bill Teknipp should be fun. As will watching the Cardinals quarterback — whoever it turns out to be after spring practice — run from Eagle’s Landing linebacker Shawayne Lawrence.

Jonesboro at North Clayton, Oct. 5

These teams go waaaaay back — to 1952 to be exact — and Jonesboro broke a seven-game losing streak against the Eagles last season. Not that it was easy. The Cardinals pulled out a 13-6 victory, a game that played a big part in North Clayton getting a tough No. 4 seed in the state playoffs.

Peach County at Henry County, Oct. 5

Warhawks head coach Joe Dupree won’t have it easy in his first year. Case in point: this mid-season game against Peach County, the Class AAA runner-ups last season. And Henry County will be looking to replace quarterback Chris Moody (South Carolina) and defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson (Alabama). The Warhawks will know if they’ve succeeded if they can hang with the Trojans.

Dutchtown at Stockbridge, Oct. 19

A great county and region rivalry game that shouldn’t take very long. Both teams focus on running the ball and have talented tailbacks returning. These teams split the past two meetings, but those were non-region games. This one really counts, and the Bulldogs probably feel they were better than they showed in last year’s 28-12 loss.

Drew at Union Grove, Nov. 9

There’s just something about this match-up — whether it be Drew’s sudden rise last year, or Union Grove’s reputation as one of Henry County’s most consistent programs. By this time in the season, we’ll know if the Titans have the talent to replace its first senior class that graduated last year and whether Union Grove can take the next step after going 3-7 and 5-5 in coach Paul Burgdorf’s first two seasons. Oh, and it’s a region game.

Landmark Christian at ELCA, Nov. 9

Another of the season’s ultimate revenge games. These teams met twice last year, and Landmark won when it mattered. Sure, the Chargers looked good in a 35-14 victory during the regular season, but Landmark pulled off a 14-7 upset in the Class A semifinals, denying ELCA its first trip to a GHSA football title game. A re-match against the region rivals isn’t a bad way to end the regular season.