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Players, coaches ‘excited’ about new season

Photo by Derrick Mahone
New Riverdale coach Terry Herrod talks abut his team's expectations during the  Clayton County media session on Wednesday.

Photo by Derrick Mahone New Riverdale coach Terry Herrod talks abut his team's expectations during the Clayton County media session on Wednesday.

RIVERDALE — Al Hughes will be doing this for the 37th time in his 50-plus years of living.

IMPORTANT DATES

Date Activity

July 25 Teams can begin practices

Aug. 1 Full gear is allowed

Aug. 30 First day of games

Nov. 9 Last day of regular season

Nov. 15 Playoffs begin

Dec. 13-15 State title games

And the Lovejoy coach gets just as excited when the Georgia High School Association calendar says its time for the start of football practice. The Wildcats will practice at the school until Wednesday before leaving for a Brewton-Parker for camp.

“I’m happier than ever this season,” Hughes said. “These kids are hungry and excited about the season.”

And for good reason.

Lovejoy is coming off consecutive appearances in the state finals at the Georgia Dome.

“They see the big picture for the team,” Hughes said. “They are hoping that the third time is the charm.”

Players and coaches in the county gathered at Southern Crescent Stadium on Wednesday for the annual Clayton County Football Media Day.

At nearby Mundy’s Mill, the players and coaches are trying to build off last season’s near-playoff appearance. The Tigers lost in the Region 4-AAAAA play-in game to Northgate to finish 4-6 overall.

After winning only six games in the previous two seasons, second-year coach Greg Manior seems to have the program heading in the right direction.

Much of the team’s success will count on the healthy return of running back Rodney Smith, who had offseason knee surgery and the continued development of quarterback Rodricous Gates, a rising junior.

“I’m excited to see what the season has for us,” Mundy’s Mill wide receiver Eric Tate said. “We are ready to start. We have worked hard in the offseason, and everyone is pretty much on the same page.”

There are three new coaches in the area with James Soza taking over at North Clayton, Terry Herrod heads the Riverdale program and John Diehl is the new Forest Park coach.

This is Soza’s second stint as a head coach with previous experience at Chamblee High in DeKalb County. Last season, he coached under the legendary Buck Godfrey at Southwest DeKalb High.

Herrod was the defensive coordinator at Dutchtown before accepting the Riverdale job this past spring.

“I’m excited. It’s like being a kid the night before Christmas,” he said. “You are ready to start. Being in this stadium, you can almost smell the hot dogs, the fresh cut grass and hear the band playing. We have some high expectations this season.”