Edgar Carson will be only the third coach in Lovejoy history. Last season, he served as defensive coordinator for the four-time region champion team. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
The 2013 season has just ended, but its time to take a look at next season.
Here are five pressing questions that will be awaiting the start of the 2014 season:
1. How will the coaching change affect Lovejoy?
Over the last three years, Al Hughes has raised the bar for coaching in the county. When he was forced out a few weeks ago, defensive coordinator Edgar Carson, who also served as the school’s athletic director, was named the new coach. Carson becomes only the third coach in program history. He has some big shoes to fill in replacing Hughes, who led the team to seven region titles, including four straight from 2010-13, and two state title game appearances. The Wildcats, who finished unranked for the first time in four years, will return several top players on both sides of the ball. Carson will be expected to produce right away.
2. Will Forest Park and Mount Zion find the right coach?
At Forest Park, it seems like a yearly affair to replace their coach. Forest Park will start the season with its fifth different coach in as many years. Rod Perrymond is the last coach to last back-to-back seasons at the long-suffering program. Perrymond coached in consecutive seasons in 2008-09. The Panthers haven’t had a winning season since 2000 when they finished with a 7-3 record. Mount Zion is looking to replace Ervin Starr, who produced only a 1-19 record after a standout coaching stint at Rex Mill Middle School. Mount Zion has moved down to Class AAAA after two years in AAAAA. The Bulldogs haven’t had a winning season since 2009.
3. Can Preston Williams live up to preseason hype?
The legend of Lovejoy junior wide receiver Preston Williams grew during a two-game playoff appearance. He had eight touchdown catches in the postseason for the Wildcats, who lost in the second round to Lowndes. It was in the first round of the playoffs that Williams produced one of the best playoff performances of the year with a 275-yard, four-touchdown game in a last-season win over Marietta. He caught the game-winning touchdown on a 47-yard reception as time expired. He has already committed to Tennessee, and several recruiting analysts are calling him the top recruit in the nation for next season. With the return of the team’s other starting receivers and both quarterbacks, Williams could have another outstanding season. He had 56 catches for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.
4. How will Mundy’s Mill replace Rodney Smith?
It won’t be easy replacing a player that rushed for 2,201 yards and 26 touchdowns. He was also called the inspirational leader for the Tigers, who reached the Class AAAAA quarterfinals. Smith produced 870 yards and 10 touchdowns in the postseason with wins over Houston County and Lee County, including a 348-yard rushing performance against Houston County at Tara Stadium. With the return of most its offensive line, including college prospect Darius “Pancake” Anderson, the Tigers should be in good shape. Coach Greg Manior said the team might lean towards a running back-by-committee approach to carry the load. Mundy’s Mill will likely use three to four different rushers to do the job that Smith did over the last two seasons.
5. What will reclassification mean for area teams?
Area athletic directors won one battle when they got the Georgia High School Association to reduce Region 5-AAAAA from 17 to 13 teams. Many schools were re-aligned in different classes that produced new regions. One of the biggest items during reclassification was when North Clayton decided to stay in Class AAA instead up moving up to be with other county schools. Because of dwindling numbers, the once-proud Eagles program was finding it hard to compete. In Region 4-AAAA, Jonesboro, Riverdale and Mount Zion will compete against several Henry County schools along with state champion Griffin. Lovejoy will remain in Region 2-AAAAAA with several other current schools, but the big addition is powerhouse Tucker. This past season, Tucker reached the Class AAAAA finals and lost to Creekside. In 2011, Lovejoy lost to Tucker in the Class AAAA finals.