Lovejoy sophomore Quintarius Neely says he is ready to make his first varsity start tonight when the No. 4 Wildcats take on rival Mundy’s Mill. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON — The 10th renewal of the Lovejoy and Mundy’s Mill rivalry will have several story lines.
Forest Park at Chattahoochee
Mount Zion vs. Jonesboro (T)
North Clayton vs. Riverdale (SC)
All games start at 7;30 p.m.
Stadium keys: SC - Southern Crescent, T- Tara, TO - Twelve Oaks.
Will Rodney Smith be at his same pace as last season? How will Edgar Carson do as Lovejoy’s new defensive coordinator? Is sophomore Quintarius Neely ready to lead the Lovejoy offense?
But tops among the most interesting questions is whether Mundy’s Mill has closed the gap any on its rivals.
Lovejoy has dominated the series, winning seven of the nine previous meetings.
Lovejoy has won the last five meetings, and it hasn’t been close. During that last five wins, the Wildcats have outscored Mundy’s Mill 142-37, with 19 of those points coming in one game.
Mundy’s Mill coach Greg Manior is hoping for a more competitive game.
“We want to see where we stand,” said Manior, who is in his second year at the school. “Lovejoy is a good measuring stick for us. They are a proven program.”
But the fourth-ranked Wildcats enter the season with some questions marks. Chief among the concerns is how will Neely do in his first varsity start. Last year, he was the starting quarterback on the freshmen team at Mays High in Atlanta.
Now, he is being asked to direct an offense that returns five starters from a group that helped lead the team to consecutive state runner-up finishes. Neely will operate behind an offensive line that returns all its starters.
Helping shoulder some of the responsibility in the backfield will be Jeremiah Kirkland, who rushed for 2,052 yards last season at Landmark Christian, a Class A school.
Neely says he is ready for his debut behind center tonight at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
“I’m ready to play,” Neely said following Wednesday’s practice. “I’m not really nervous, I’m just ready for the season to begin.”
Smith rushed for 1,575 yards and 18 touchdowns before injuring his knee in the first quarter of the ninth game of the season. Manior said he looked impressive during the team’s scrimmage at Upson-Lee a couple weeks ago.
Carson said Smith will present a good challenge to his defense, which returns only four starters.
“Rodney is one of the top backs in the state,” said Carson, who takes over as defensive coordinator as Kevin Jones got the head coaching job at Dutchtown.
“I want to see how my guys do against a good offense,” Carson said. “We have some players that are ready to step up.”