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Lovejoy leads local teams in rankings

Coach Al Hughes’ Lovejoy Wildcats enter the season ranked by the majority of the high school preseason polls. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Coach Al Hughes’ Lovejoy Wildcats enter the season ranked by the majority of the high school preseason polls. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Over the last few years, Lovejoy has been the barometer from which other teams in Clayton County judge themselves.

It seems that will be the case again this season as the Wildcats head into the upcoming season as a consensus top 10 team by several preseason polls.

In the latest poll released this week, Lovejoy is fourth in the Georgia Sports Writers Association poll. Lovejoy is the only team from Clayton County to be ranked in any of the preseason polls.

Earlier this preseason, Lovejoy, which finished runner-up in Class AAAAAA to Norcross last season, was tabbed No. 3 in its classification by the Georgia High School Football Daily, an online publication. The Wildcats are ranked No. 5 by the Maxwell Ratings.

They didn’t receive a top 10 ranking by MaxPreps. Last season, Lovejoy entered the season unranked in the GSWA poll, but entered in Week 3 at No. 9 following its 14-7 loss at Colquitt County.

Other Southern Crescent schools that received top 10 rankings in the preseason are Eagle’s Landing Christian and Stockbridge.

ELCA was one of three schools in the state to be voted No. 1 in all four of the polls that have been released in the preseason. The other consensus No. 1’s are defending Class AAAAAA champion Norcross and last year’s Class AAAA champion Sandy Creek. Next week, Georgia Public Broadcasting will release it first poll of the season.

“It is always good to get some preseason recognition,” ELCA senior defensive back Bryson Durden said. “The downside is that you know teams are going to give it their all because everyone wants to beat No. 1. We just have to stay humble and be better today than were were on yesterday.”

The GSWA poll replaces the longtime Associated Press poll this season because several newspapers around the state no longer subscribe to that wire service. There is a representative from the Clayton News Daily that votes in the GSWA poll. Throughout the season, the newspaper will only recognize the GSWA poll when it comes to team rankings.

Stockbridge entered the preseason ranked for the second time in a row. The Tigers finished 11-2 last season and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA playoffs.

In the GSWA poll, Stockbridge entered the season at No. 6 while MaxPreps has them at No. 4 in its preseason rankings.

“It’s great to be ranked, but we realize a lot of that has to do with last year’s team,” Stockbridge senior running back Maetron Thomas said. “This year’s team has to come out and prove it belongs. We are sort of a diamond in the rough that a lot of people are starting to recognize.”