It is not as if Lovejoy needed any added motivation, coming into the start of the Class AAAAAA playoffs, but the Wildcats certainly got some.
When some of the final regular season polls were released earlier this week, the Wildcats found themselves ranked anywhere from No. 2 to No. 6 by the human and computer pollsters.
So what’s the problem?
Well, the Wildcats went into their regular season final against Alcovy at No. 2 in most polls — a spot behind Colquitt County, a team that suffered its only defeat to this season.
Colquitt lost 22-15 to Camden County in its regular season final. There was a buzz that most would do the right thing and bump Lovejoy up a slot to No. 1 in the polls.
The first shocker came on Sunday evening when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Georgia High School Football Daily released its poll and the Wildcats dropped all the way to No. 6.
“We don’t catch any respect,” said Lovejoy coach Al Hughes.
Lovejoy won a game they were supposed to and clinched their fourth straight region title, and it drops not one, but five slots.
The explanation is that because Colquitt lost, it throws all creditability of the close Lovejoy loss to the Packers in Week 2 of the season out the window.
Nevermind that the Wildcats were a batted pass away from pulling the upset on the road with a first-year sophomore quarterback making his second start of the season. But in the minds of the pollsters, that four-point loss wasn’t credible, since a good Camden team beat a good Colquitt team.
Over the last two seasons, Lovejoy has been the pride of the southside, but has had to fight to gain respect. Hughes’ bunch has made consecutive appearances in the state finals. The Wildcats have produced several college signees and the top defensive player in their classification during that time frame.
But they seem to be back to square one with the statewide pollsters.
Even in the Georgia Sportswriters Association poll, the Wildcats aren’t getting much respect.
Despite its win, and Colquitt’s loss, Lovejoy remained in the No. 2 spot. Of the 12 voters, eight of them put Lovejoy at the top on their ballot. Count me among the believers that voted for Lovejoy to be No. 1.
But it wasn’t enough as Camden would leap from No. 3 to the top spot.
“It’s all good,” Hughes said. “It is what it is, so we just have to try and take care of business.”
At this point, ranking really doesn’t matter because the playoff brackets will settle any debate.
First up for the Wildcats is visiting Marietta this evening at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
It is a safe bet that at some point during his pre-game speech, Hughes will make mention of a lack of respect for his team.
“The coaches have been motivated,” Hughes said. “I’m sure this has motivated the kids.”
Derrick Mahone is the sports editor for the Clayton News Daily newspaper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter? @DerrickMahone_