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Lovejoy looking to turn up heat on defense

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Lovejoy defensive coordinator Kevin Jones says some injuries have kept his unit from being at full speed this season.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Lovejoy defensive coordinator Kevin Jones says some injuries have kept his unit from being at full speed this season.

HAMPTON — Lovejoy defensive coordinator Kevin Jones says he is sleeping a lot more peacefully these days.

Rest shouldn’t seem much of a problem when you are part of a team that is ranked No. 9 in the state’s highest classification. Jones defensive unit is giving up about nine points per game.

But the veteran knows that his unit could be much better.

The Wildcats have been playing the first six games of the season without two key defensive players in linebackers Demarquis Gates and Eugene Fuller. Both had been sideline with injuries as younger players were asked to fill the void.

Fuller has been out with a broken foot and Gates was sidelined with a knee injury. When the Wildcats takes on Morrow tonight at Twelve Oaks Stadium, both will be in the lineup.

“Not having those guys hurt the infrastructure of our defense,” Jones said. “They played in the middle of our defense. With them in there, we don’t give up that long touchdown to Alpharetta. Not having them hurt us against Colquitt County, because they are great run stuffers. They are not good, but great.”

And this season, Lovejoy went from being great in 2011 to good this season. Its 41-0 win over Rockdale last week was the first shutout of the season. Last season, the Wildcats had a total of eight as they boost the team’s top defense.

“I wouldn’t say we lost a step, but it has taken us a lot longer to gel this season,” Lovejoy defensive end Zane Fields said. “We have a lot of new guys out there that are getting us to our system.”

With Gates and Fuller out, Jones said he had to plug in some defensive backs in the linebacker stop.

“Fuller is the unsung hero of our defense,” Jones said. “He is the glue. We had to limp into games without them. I’m not taking anything away from the guys we had in there, but it is hard replacing two guys like Gates and Fuller. We had some guys that had to grow up fast.”

Alpharetta, which featured quarterback Josh Dobbs, put up 30 points on the Wildcats. Dobbs is considered one of the top quarterback prospects in the state, and he has committed to play at Arizona State next season.

Lovejoy had to replace its entire secondary coming into the season after all four graduated, including all-state players Jermaine Hough and Rico McWilliams. Hough, now at Jacksonville State, was the Class AAAA Defensive Player of the Year last season in addition being named the Clayton News Daily Player of the Year.

McWilliams is a redshirt freshman at South Carolina after sustaining a season-ending knee injury during the preseason.

“We still have a lot to improve,” Nat Norwood said. “We have made some mistakes this year, but we still trust each other. We know this defense is going to get better.”

And that could be dangerous for the remaining opponents.