Al Hughes spent the last 13 years building the Lovejoy football program among the state’s elite with consecutive trips to the state finals. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON — After 13 years and seven region championships, Al Hughes is out as the Lovejoy football coach.
A Clayton County iconic sports figure, Hughes transformed the Lovejoy program into one of the state’s elite during the last four years.
Reached Monday afternoon, Hughes said he would retire from his teaching position and spend time over the upcoming holidays to plot out his next move as a coach.
“It is not the end of my coaching career,” Hughes said. “I still have coaching in my blood. My dad has been sick, so I’m going to spend some time with him and my mom to help them out. I’m not through coaching, I’m going to weigh my options.”
This past season, Hughes led the Wildcats to their fourth straight region title and a trip to the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs. Lovejoy finished with a 10-2 record before losing to Lowndes at Twelve Oaks Stadium in the postseason.
He leaves as the all-time winningest coach in the county, including his stop at his alma mater Jonesboro. After leaving Jonesboro in 1993, he became an assistant at Lovejoy before taking over in 2001 following the retirement of C.W. Campbell.
“There are a lot of fond memories I have,” Hughes said. “I need to retire and get out of the way for the Lovejoy program. I don’t want to cause any grief for them.”
During his tenure at Lovejoy, Hughes won 104 games and led the program to consecutive state titles during the 2011 and ’12 seasons. He sent numerous players onto the college ranks and had a few to make it in the NFL.
“I just happened to be the one in charge when all this was happening,” Hughes said. “We had a lot of fun through the years, especially the last four where we put together a 47-6 record and won four region championships, which included two unbeaten (regular) seasons. It was a great ride for us. I had the best seat in the house, as I was sitting on top watching it all unfold.”
The next coach will have a lofty standard of winning to reach as the team returns several players, including wide receiver Preston Williams, who is regarded as the top college prospect in next year’s class. The 6-foot-5 Williams has already committed to Tennessee.
Also returning on defense is Montrell Custis, who has committed to Kentucky, and the Wildcats return both quarterbacks from this season.