Photo by Derrick Mahone
Lovejoy’s Randy Robinson (left) and Michael Jones are the anchors of an experienced Wildcat offensive line looking to power the team to to a third straight state title berth.
Hampton— The number 143 rolled out of Michael Jones’ mouth, perhaps even before he realized it.
The Lovejoy offensive lineman has gotten used to saying it, thinking it.
Being motivated by it.
Same with fellow trenchman Randy Robinson. Except there’s still a little sting that comes with it, even seven months later.
“It hurts at first to hear it even now,” Robinson said. “But then it just makes me want to work. It motivates me to want to go even harder.”
“We were up 14-3 [against Norcross] in the state championship game and we couldn’t finish,” Jones said. That was the advantage Lovejoy had over the eventual Class AAAAAA champs late in the third quarter.
But that’s not all.
“We were 1:43 from a state championship, and couldn’t make it happen,” Robinson said.
That was the time left in the fourth quarter when Robinson and the Lovejoy offense trotted back on the field for its last drive of the game to try and erase a 21-13 deficit.
Put it all together and the number 143 represents a motivational cry as well as a painful memory.
So painful that offensive line coach Paul Roth still hasn’t been able to bring himself to reliving it all.
“I can’t even watch the whole tape of that,” Roth said. “I just can’t. You stub your toe, you don’t want to do it again. Since the day after that those linemen have been working real, real hard. They have a vision, they have a purpose and have created a lot of pride for themselves.”
That vision and purpose includes a third straight state trip to the Georgia Dome. A third consecutive reach at the hardware — not the same piece they’ve taken home the last two years, mind you.
“We want to be standing on the top platform after that 15th game this time around,” Robinson said. “Not on the side with that runner-up trophy.”
But with so many skill players like two-year starting quarterback Alejandro Bennifield and record-breaking running back Travis Custis moving on to Div. I football, it would seem unreasonable to expect an encore performance of last year’s 41 points per game output.
Not so, said Robinson.
“Without us there wouldn’t be any offense,” said Robinson in reference to the Wildcat front five. “They’d be running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Regardless of who’s back there, we are the offense. We’re confident in who we have. We know what we can do.”
That bullish attitude is exactly what you want to hear from a group of guys known more for their ability to knock people down than run them over. It’s an attitude that Robinson said applies across the board.
“Us five, we try to work ourselves and push ourselves, whether outside running or whatever we need to do to help each other get through it,” Robinson said. “So when that fourth quarter comes, we’re not going to get tired. We’re going to know that we’ve got each other’s backs.
“We’re a family. We’re strong built. We don’t go anywhere by ourselves.”
And just in case a weak moment or two arises, they remember those three numbers.
“When we see someone being lackadaisical, and we hear someone shouting out that 143, it changes everyone’s mindset,” Robinson said. “It makes us get back focused on what we want. “We’re don’t want the little trophy anymore.”