Photo by Gabriel Stovall
Lovejoy senior wide receiver JuMichael Ramos committed to N.C. State over the weekend after being a longtime Georgia Tech commitment.
In Lovejoy coach Al Hughes’ mind, Friday’s matchup against No. 10-ranked Colquitt County is a tune up — for the postseason.
Not just because of players like Packers’ wide receiver Bobby Hill who had 13 catches for 141 yards in Colquitt’s 35-33 victory over Thomas County Central last Friday.
Not because of strong-armed Colquitt quarterback Cole Seagraves.
But because Hughes believes that when his Wildcats travel to Moultrie to battle against a perennial South Georgia powerhouse, they’ll have to contend with more than the 11 players not wearing Lovejoy uniforms.
“The thought of going down on the road playing in a hostile environment,” Hughes said, “where the whole town comes out and watches them play, it’s going to be like a playoff atmosphere.
“Not because of anything we bring to the table, but when you go to play Colquitt, that’s what you get.”
What fans will get on Friday is a clash of two teams who got too close to state championships in 2011 to be comfortable with not making a title run again this season.
Colquitt lost 35-31 in last year’s semifinals to eventual AAAAA state champion Grayson.
Lovejoy cruised through the regular season and playoffs undefeated, before running into a Tucker buzzsaw in its 22-7 loss in the AAAA title game.
The Wildcats spent the offseason making much of its desire to get back to the Georgia Dome to “win the last one” as their team motto states.
And in a 44-6 season opening route of Mundy’s Mill last Friday, Hughes’ team seems to be at midseason focus already.
Still, Hughes said there is plenty for his talented bunch to work on in order to keep the Wildcats from self destructing Friday.
“I was pleased with everybody’s effort against Mundy’s Mill,” Hughes said. “But I was a little disappointed in our penalties. We were a very undisciplined team. We can’t have penalties in a big game like Colquitt. That will kill you.”
Lovejoy was penalized 13 times last week, but it didn’t stop them from rolling up 41 first-half points before calling off the dogs in the second half.
And the Associated Press pollsters seemed impressed. Lovejoy cracked the rankings for the first time this season at No. 9 in AAAAAA.
Despite that, senior tight end and Auburn commit A.J. Jackson said there is still much for the Wildcats to prove.
“This is all we’ve been waiting for,” he said. “This game this week is the opportunity to show Atlanta and the rest of Georgia that we really are as good as anyone else.”
The Packers have split their first two games of the season, losing 16-14 to North Gwinett in the season’s first week at the Georgia Dome, and then coming from behind to beat Thomas County Central.
This will be the Packers’ home debut at Mack Tharpe Memorial Stadium.
And Hughes is hoping that — win or lose — he will get to find out early on how playoff ready Lovejoy is.
“In the environment at the state championship game, the fear of the unknown was there because we’d never been there,” Hughes said. “Tucker had been there before. They didn’t show those same signs of weak knees and knotted stomachs that I think we did.
“So I felt we needed to play some teams equal to the caliber of football that Tucker gave us. Colquitt gives us that. We’re not just looking at wins or losses, but to build our team and put our young men in a scenario that hopefully they’ll get accustomed to being in.”
Jackson said he too is anxious to use this game as a barometer see where he and his teammates stand.
“We know we’ll be going against the crowd,” he said. “It’s really like a test to see where we are. But we’re going to take it and let people know that we’re playing in a different region but we’re still going to come out and do our best.”